A bull’s-eye touched down on the island of Dominica on Monday evening. As of Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT, that eye has re-emerged – this time between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) September 20, 2017
So far, Hurricane Maria’s devastation has been severe. In Dominica, it tore roofs from homes; picked up and scattered trees like matches; and choked streets with floods. In Puerto Rico, it brought similar destruction and has left the island completely without power.
Even before the storm made landfall on Monday, meterologists saw something at the center of the storm that portended evil.
“Maria is developing the dreaded pinhole eye,” the National Hurricane Center posted.
On Wednesday evening, that eye reappeared.
That tiny circle in the center of the storm can be a sign that a hurricane will wreak havoc. In general, the smaller the eye, the faster the hurricane will spin – and the faster the spin, the stronger the storm.
It all comes down to energy conservation, Ryan Maue, a research meteorologist and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, told Business Insider. Just as figure skaters appear to give themselves an extra boost of momentum by tucking in a leg or an arm, a hurricane with a tighter inner eye is likely to spin faster.
Inside a hurricane
Hurricanes have three essential elements that can be traced from the inside out.
- Business Insider / Mike Nudelman
At the center is the eye, an eerily peaceful region that’s generally between 12 and 30 miles in diameter.
Circling the eye is what’s known as the hurricane’s eyewall, a ring of dense, towering vertical clouds that swirl around the eye. The heaviest rains and strongest winds are found inside the eyewall.
The outermost region is characterized by what is known as spiral rainbands, heavy showers that trace an inward spiral toward the storm’s center.
At 6 p.m. ET on Monday, Maria’s pinhole eye measured roughly 10 miles in diameter, according to The Associated Press. That suggested danger to the thousands of meteorologists watching it from around the world.
However, an eye with a 10-mile diameter is still more than four times as large as that of 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, which set a record for the lowest central pressure of any hurricane, at peak strength. (The stronger a storm, the lower the central pressure.)
Maria’s 160-mph winds still proved devastating for Dominica, and by the time they reached Puerto Rico, they’d ramped up to 175-mph.
By Wednesday, the storm had damaged “everything in its path,” in Puerto Rico according to reports.
Maria is now headed toward the Dominican Republic, but Puerto Rico continues to experience “catastrophic” flooding from rainfall and storm surge as of Wednesday night, the NHC reported.
Hurricane warnings are in effect for the Dominican Republic, where conditions are “now deteriorating,” according to the NHC, along with Puerto Rico, Culebra, Turks and Caicos, and the southeastern Bahamas.