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Tropical Storm Fay (AKA "The Joker") is pulling a trick that may be unprecedented--significantly intensifying over land, developing a full eyewall. The radar and satellite images of Fay this afternoon (Figures 1 and 2) show a much better-organized storm than the Fay that made landfall this morning. Fay now has a symmetric appearance with a full eyewall, and the winds near the center were sustained at 60 mph this afternoon at Lake Okeechobee. These winds are higher than anything measured at landfall this morning. Remarkably, the pressure has fallen over 10 mb since landfall, and I can't ever recall seeing such a large pressure fall while a storm was over land. Hurricane Andrew of 1992 crossed South Florida and did not weaken significantly, but "The Joker" has significantly intensified. It does happen sometimes that the increased friction over land can briefly act to intensify a hurricane vortex, but this effect is short-lived, once the storm is cut off from its oceanic moisture source. To have a storm intensify over land and maintain that increased intensity while over land for 12 hours is hard to explain. The only thing I can think is that recent rains in Florida have formed large areas of standing water that the storm is feeding off of. Fay is also probably pulling moisture from Lake Okeechobee. Anyone want to write a Ph.D. thesis on this case? Wow.
Forecasting the intensity of Fay continues to be difficult. Last night, Fay moved very slowly, and at times was almost stationary. The result was that Fay's center never emerged fully out into the Atlantic. Instead, Fay continues to weaken as a storm normal should over land. Winds have fallen, central pressure is closer to tropical depression strength, and there is no eye structure left.