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Felicia becomes a major hurricane in East Pacific as Atlantic stays quiet

By
Ryan Adamson, Accuweather.com

While the tropical Atlantic is expected to remain quiet for the foreseeable future, it's a different story in the East Pacific, as AccuWeather forecasters say multiple hurricanes could soon be spinning in the basin.

The East Pacific was devoid of activity for nearly two weeks after Enrique dissipated in the Gulf of California on June 30. This changed Wednesday morning when Tropical Depression 6-E formed well to the south of Mexico and quickly intensified to Tropical Storm Felicia. Less than 24 hours after that, Felicia became a hurricane. So far this season, Enrique and Felicia have been the only two hurricanes in the East Pacific. However, there are some differences between the two.

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While both Enrique and Felicia became hurricanes within 24 hours of being designated as tropical systems, Enrique turned northward toward Mexico and brought heavy rain and strong winds. Felicia is expected to bring no direct impacts to Mexico, but there will still be some effects.

Hurricane Felicia Satellite 7/16
Hurricane Felicia is seen on AccuWeather's RealVue Satellite Friday afternoon, July 16, 2021.

"Felicia will generate large swells and rough surf along the coast of Baja California Sur," said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Rob Miller.

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He added that shipping interests in the area will encounter dangerous seas.

Felicia has already become much stronger than Enrique, which peaked at Category 1 strength.

Friday morning, Felicia was already a solid Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. Felicia is the first major hurricane of the season in either the Atlantic or East Pacific basins. A major hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 111-129 mph.

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By Friday afternoon, the hurricane reached Category 4 status as winds strengthened to 130 mph.

As of 11 a.m. PDT, Felicia was about 985 miles west-southwest of Baja California, Mexico, and moving gradually at a speed of 9 mph.

Felicia is expected to level off in intensity later in the day and begin to weaken thereafter.

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"Felicia will begin to run into drier air and some slightly cooler waters," Miller explained.

However, the weakening process is expected to be slow because the storm will be moving to the west and not turning to the north. This will keep Felicia over marginally warm waters.

"If the track is even farther to the south, it may maintain its intensity for longer," stated AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

The ocean temperature is much lower farther to the north, which would cause the hurricane to weaken rapidly and fall apart, much like what happened to Enrique.

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Besides Felicia, AccuWeather meteorologists are monitoring a second area for tropical development in the East Pacific. An area of showers and thunderstorms a few hundred miles south of Mexico, to the east of Felicia, is likely to develop over the weekend.

Like Felicia, this system is expected to quickly strengthen into a tropical storm and then a hurricane. The next name in the East Pacific is Guillermo.

"There are likely to be two hurricanes going at the same time in the East Pacific," Sosnowski said.

The system which is expected to become Guillermo should follow a similar path to Felicia and not bring any direct impacts to Mexico.

AccuWeather meteorologists are predicting 14-18 named storms in the Eastern Pacific this season with six to 10 expected to become hurricanes.

Why has the Atlantic become so quiet?

In the wake of Elsa, no additional tropical storms or hurricanes have developed in the Atlantic Ocean. There are several reasons for this.

"Due to the presence of dry air and wind shear, tropical waves moving off the coast of Africa are not expected to develop for at least the next week," Miller stated.

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Elsa was born from one of those waves. Since then, however, conditions have not been conducive for development, and that is expected to be the case for at least several more days.

There is sometimes a period of low activity even after a fast start. Even in the record-setting 2020 season in which 30 named storms developed in the Atlantic, there were no storms between July 12 and July 21. That has again been this case this season.

Those who live in hurricane-prone areas should not let their guard down, though, as the peak of the season typically occurs in mid-August and lasts until late September.

AccuWeather meteorologists are forecasting 16-20 named systems for the Atlantic basin for the 2021 season with seven to 10 hurricanes and up to five direct impacts on the United States. So far, Claudette, Danny and Elsa have all impacted the United States.

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