Hurricane Emilia entered the Southern California swell window yesterday at Category 2 strength, but continued to intensify overnight, reaching Category 4 status with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. As of 8:00 a.m. PDT (NHC Advisory #12), Emilia is moving west-northwest (285°) at approximately 10 mph, with hurricane force winds extending outward up to 35 miles. Emilia is expected to gradually weaken beginning tonight, and continue weakening through Thursday, July 12th. The track model guidance predicts continued west-northwest movement, with a late westward turn, with only a slight change in speed.
The image above includes the best track data for Hurricane Eugene (2011), which entered the Southern California swell window on August 2, 2011 as a Category 2 hurricane and later intensified to Category 4. Looking at the historical wave observation data from the Point Loma station on Friday, August 5, 2011, reveals a steady pulse of South energy in the 3-5 foot at 13-15 seconds.
Although a northerly track is more favorable for Southern California surf production (the majority of a hurricane’s swell energy is focused along its path), Emilia is moving WNW at a slightly slower pace than Eugene did (10 mph vs. 14 mph), which gives the wind more time to transfer energy onto the sea surface. The latest forecast model for the Point Loma buoy shows a small, moderate-period SSE pulse arriving Thursday (July 12, 2012), with continued moderate south swell through the weekend (3 feet at 10 seconds). However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upgrade in the forecast, particularly for late Thursday into Friday, if Emilia maintains major hurricane strength and a relatively slow pace (10 mph or less).
I’d recommend keeping an eye on the Point Loma 5-day forecast over the next few days to see how things shape up. Given how dismal this summer has been so far in California, it’s definitely something to get excited about. Just how excited depends on what Emilia does in the next 24-48 hours.