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Hurricane Dorian's Sluggish Movement Makes Future Path Hard To Project


Hurricane Dorian is right now battering the Bahamas with high winds and torrential rains. Next, it is expected to turn, oh, so slowly north and west. As it moves along its path, Dorian is expected to graze the coastlines of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. And the fact that it is moving so slowly - that in and of itself poses a particular kind of threat. Joel Klein is a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., and he joins us now.

Thanks so much for being with us.

JOEL KLEIN: Good morning.

MARTIN: Why has it been so hard to forecast the path of this particular storm?

KLEIN: Well, it's just been from the beginning a small storm when it started out in the Atlantic. And, you know, you're looking at global models to predict a small storm. And as it got bigger as a hurricane, then the steering flow got to be quite lax. And so now it's stalled out. But still, you know, we have managed to forecast well enough to evacuate areas that need to be evacuated and hopefully make people aware quite well in advance.

MARTIN: Right. So it looks at this point like southernmost Florida might be safe from all this. At this point, who is not safe?

KLEIN: Well, a lot of people that are living on the Florida east coast mainly is who we're worried about. We have watches and warnings up of various kinds from essentially the Brevard-Volusia County line here in Florida all the way up to the Georgia line. And then if you live on the coast in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina up through Cape Hatteras, as the days go on through the week through Thursday, Friday morning, before it gets up to North Carolina's coast and out to sea, then all those people who have property and interest in those areas should pay very, very close attention to this dangerous storm.

MARTIN: It's going to be a long week. Can we talk about the speed of this? I mentioned how slowly it's moving. Why? Why is it that way?

KLEIN: So when it was starting to move, as you recall, last week when it was down in Dominica and coming through the Leeward Islands and then went up east of Puerto Rico, we had a strong ridge pushing it up toward the area that it's at right now...

MARTIN: A ridge of what? What does that mean when you say a strong ridge?

KLEIN: High pressure system.


KLEIN: So I used to have a boss down here that related it to, like, the hurricane's a cork and it's in a stream or a river, right? And so the stream is all the upper air patterns, be it a ridge or a trough...


KLEIN: ...Or an area of low pressure. And so that cork maintains itself and goes through through the stream. So the ridge had been very, very strong and pushing that up at a pretty good rate of speed up toward the Bahamas. And then that has eroded. It's gotten less of a ridge, right? It's retreated back toward the Bermuda. You always hear of the Bermuda high. Well, now it's just waiting on the next thing to pick it up in this stream and move it along. So just pretend like that cork's going over to the shore and the area where it's not (unintelligible) in the water. And so now it's waiting on the next thing to pick it up, which will be a trough, and then it'll start to move, we hope, in a northerly traction here...

MARTIN: Right.

KLEIN: ...In the forecast in the next little bit.

MARTIN: So we're in the strange situation of wanting it to move where it could do damage in other places, but the longer it sits over a particular location, the more damage it does there.

KLEIN: Catastrophic for the Bahamas.

MARTIN: Yeah. Joel Klein, meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

KLEIN: Thank you. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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