Tropical Alert – Amanda is now a CAT-4 Hurricane moving through Socal’s swell window

Adam Wright
(Sunday) 5.25.14

It looks like our little Amanda is growing all up…she started Friday as a newly formed tropical storm…and now, just about 36-48 hours later she is MAJOR HURRICANE AMANDA.

Current estimates have Amanda’s core winds now reaching 120-knots with gusts topping off near 140-knots. Satellite tracks are showing that she is tracking WNW at about 295 degrees at about 4-knots. Overall Hurricane Amanda is a very strong, very slow moving storm.

You can see on the satellite images that Amanda has now developed a very distinct eye, which for forecasting makes it a lot easier to pin down the center of the storm. We can see very clearly that the core of the storm, and most importantly the swell-producing NE and SE quadrants of this system have moved into the Socal swell window over the last 24 hours and the odds are getting better and better that Amanda will be sending waves to Socal (not to mention a lot of the exposed breaks along Baja Sur)

Now…while the chances of Amanda producing a tropical SE swell get better, the exact size and direction are still a bit dynamic. She is waaaay stronger than she was a couple of days ago, but strength isn’t all that matters when trying to get swell from tropical systems. With hurricanes (and other tropical storms) there are a lot of factors that go into being a good surf producer. Intensity, track, size, and duration are all incredibly important…and to be honest I still have some concerns about Amanda’s size and forecasted track.

Again on the good side she is still strengthening and a lot of that intensification has taken place inside our swell window. She is also slow moving, which means she will spend more time in our swell window (and more time over the same area of ocean that she will be using to generate surf). Finally Amanda’s track is forecast to swing her northward, letting her move directly toward Socal for an extended period of time.

What I don’t like about Amanda is her size…she is still pretty freaking small, with hurricane force winds only extended out about 40-nautical miles from the storm’s eye. This will increase as she strengthens but the small size means smaller fetch, which can mean weaker/smaller surf. Also while the core of the storm has moved into our window there is still a patch of winds (on the swell making side) that aren’t in our window, and much of the time it is these ancillary winds, particularly the winds being drawn into the storm from outside the gnarly core that help create longer trails of fetch and bigger waves…so by cutting off some of these winds it can stunt the size of the swell. The real bummer is that Amanda is looking like she will eventually recurve back toward Cabo over the next few days, so it means she will be walking a pretty tight line between being able to send us swell or slipping back into the Baja swell shadow.

Now that Amanda is a CAT-4 hurricane…what should we expect from Socal’s surf?

Timing wise I am not expecting much change…Amanda’s size and strength may have increased but the steering winds have her moving at the same projected speeds and direction from a couple of days ago. We can expect to start to see a new SE swell (155-165) arriving as early as Wednesday (May 28) but then peaking on Thursday (May 29) with energy holding over into Friday (May 30) before finally dropping off Friday afternoon.

Surfwise, with her stronger winds, we get to revise the swell forecast upwards…but because she is still cruising in that slightly shadowed area I don’t think we are going to see really open the throttle. At this point I think we can add almost a foot more of energy…so we would be looking at roughly 2.0-2.6 feet of swell at 12-13 second swell periods. The extra height and the longer swell periods will both help to generate bigger surf.

We won’t see a ton of new size on Wednesday, just a little hint of enhanced SE energy showing in the morning and then something starting to be slightly more rideable by the afternoon. Thursday as the swell peaks we will likely see the SE exposed spots build into the waist-chest high range with some shoulder high sets. The standout SE spots, that really like tropical swells, will have more consistent waist-shoulder high surf along with some head high sets.

Also keep in mind that there will be a pretty decent mix of S-SW swell moving up from the Southern Hemi at the same time the tropical swell moves in. I don’t expect the steeper angled tropical swell to generate to hit our region in too many places…it is just too focused, but it will add some much needed consistency and some extra size to the standout SE/SW combo breaks. In general those well exposed spots will feel more consistent, as well as have extra size on the bigger sets.

I know it is a drag to still have to wait a few days for the swell to arrive…but we will keep you posted as Amanda continues to develop.

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