MIAMI, FL (WAFB) - Hurricane Danny was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane Friday afternoon and although small in size, Danny is packing a wallop with peak sustained winds estimated at more than 115 mph.
At 1 p.m., the National Hurricane Center reported Danny was located at 14.3 North, 48.6 West, which is east of the Lesser Antilles. Maximum sustained winds were at 115 mph. The storm was moving west-northwest at 10 mph.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched the first plane for reconnaissance.
No additional intensification is expected, as Danny is moving into an area of unfavorable upper-level winds, and a weakening trend is expected to begin later today.
The reasoning for forecasted weakening is two-fold: Danny will be trying to push through an area of even drier air located to its west and at the same time, Danny will be entering a region of enhanced westerly and southwesterly shear. Danny's small size - which is not expected to change much over the next 24 hours - makes "him" even more susceptible to these two factors.
The current NHC forecast into early next week takes Danny - at tropical-storm strength - into the northeastern Caribbean, across the Leeward Islands and towards the larger, mountainous islands of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. If that forecasted track pans out, interaction with those two islands would disrupt Danny even further.
However, Danny's future remains very uncertain. While the NHC keeps Danny "alive" through its course across the northern Caribbean, shear, dry air and rugged terrain could effectively "kill" the storm. On the other hand, given Danny's small size, a slight shift in the forecast track could keep the storm away from the mountain islands. If that were to happen and Danny could "survive" the shear, there would be an opportunity for re-intensification down the road.
So many "what ifs?" - a textbook example of why extended-range tropical weather forecasting is so difficult.
All that said, Danny is far from a concern for Louisiana - at least not just yet. Even if Danny can survive the roadblocks in "his" way and stays on the current track beyond five days, the storm - regardless of its strength - is still roughly eight days from reaching the southeastern Gulf of Mexico at its current pace.
That is a lot of time and distance for things to change - and they almost certainly will.