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Hurricane Maria strengthening, Jose nearing. U.S. on watch


An updated article on hurricane Maria can be found here. Previous article: Hurricane Maria is nearing the Caribbean Leeward islands with sustained winds currently at 120 mph and higher gusts, as of 3:00 PM UTC September 18th, but the storm, now a major Category 3 hurricane, could keep intenfsiying as it targets the islands and the United States cannot rule out another storm threat yet.

Hurricane Maria is tracking towards the Leeward islands after which Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the British Virgin islands are all in the storms track. The storm raises the chances of further insurance and reinsurance market losses this hurricane season.

Currently packing 120 mph sustained winds and higher gusts, along with a minimum central pressure of 959mb (having dropped almost 20 mb in the last few hours), weather models forecast that hurricane Maria will continue to intensify into a major category 4 or 5 storm, a terrible prospect for the already hurricane ravaged islands that fall within the forecast cone.

Hurricane Maria forecast path and track

Hurricane Maria forecast path and track

Hurricane Maria poses some threat to the United States, although considerable uncertainty remains in the eventual path and forecast models are erring towards a curve north into the Atlantic. However it is worth keeping an eye on Maria as it passes the Caribbean with the current track similar to Irma.

Hurricane Marina GFS forecast models

Hurricane Marina GFS forecast models

Hurricane Maria is likely to be a major hurricane before it reaches the Leeward Islands and as it crosses Puerto Rico. The forecast track takes Maria directly over the U.S. island, which if intensity forecasts prove correct could result in considerable insurance losses, with a chance of impact for reinsurance capital as insurers tend to leverage more risk transfer in the Caribbean region.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles from the center of hurricane Maria and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles.

Hurricane Maria wind intensity forecast

Hurricane Maria wind intensity forecast

Whether hurricane Maria will track towards the United States remains uncertain at this time, but the majority of forecast model runs do show the storm taking a curve away from Florida at least. The Bahamas could get hit by Maria though, and there are also model runs that show hurricane Maria heading for a landfall further up the U.S. eastern seaboard.

So insurance and reinsurance interests, as well as catastrophe bonds and the insurance-linked securities market, are not safe yet and need to watch closely as hurricane Maria passes the Caribbean. Any deviation south or west could take hurricane Maria closer to Florida and the U.S. eastern coastline.

The NHC warns of storm surge of up to 9 foot for the Caribbean islands closest to Maria’s path, as well as rainfall that could total as much as 20 inches, with 6 to 12 inches more widely experienced across the Leeward islands.

Meanwhile, hurricane Jose continues to track northwards off the U.S. east coast and whether this storm shifts west or not there could be some impacts to the coast from high seas and large waves. There is also some model uncertainty in Jose’s future path, with some suggesting a curve out to sea and then a track back towards the U.S. as a tropical or extra-tropical storm.

Hurricane Jose has winds of 75 mph and a central pressure of 972mb, but this storm is expected to weaken somewhat. However it could remain a large and dangerous wind storm should it approach the U.S. coastline.

Hurricane Jose forecast path and track

Hurricane Jose forecast path and track

You can track the hurricane season over at our dedicated page and all of the graphics in this article will update automatically, so stay tuned.

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