Amanda became the strongest May eastern Pacific hurricane on record Sunday morning a peak winds approached that of a Category 5 hurricane.
Amanda’s maximum sustained winds increased to near 155 mph and its central pressure dropped to 932 millibars by 11 a.m. PDT Sunday, meaning Amanda was very powerful Category 4 hurricane.
Although Amanda has weakened some from its peak strength, sustained winds remain at Category 4 strength as the storm moves slowly northward over the eastern Pacific.
Adolph from 2001 originally held the distinction of strongest May hurricane in the basin. At the peak of Adolph’s intensity, the central pressure bottomed out at 940 millibars and winds were nearly 145 mph.
This satellite image of Amanda, courtesy of NOAA, was taken Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Amanda is also the earliest Category 4 hurricane in the eastern Pacific, ahead of Hurricane Adolph in 2001, and the second earliest major eastern Pacific hurricane on record, behind Hurricane Bud in 2012.
Adolph reached Category 4 strength on May 28, 2001.
It is unusual, in terms of climatology, to have a minimal hurricane form in the eastern Pacific in May, let alone a strong Category 4 hurricane.
Maximum sustained winds within a Category 4 hurricane range from 130 to 156 mph. On average, it takes until June 26 for the first hurricane to form in the eastern Pacific. The first major hurricane of the season typically does not form in the eastern Pacific until July 19.
There has never been a Category 5 hurricane in the eastern Pacific during May.
No hurricanes in the Atlantic have reached Category 4 strength in May. Audrey, from late June 1957, holds the record for the Atlantic’s earliest Category 4 hurricane.
The warm ocean waters and a lack of strong wind shear (disruptive winds above the surface) allowed Amanda to undergo rapid intensification over the weekend. Amanda was first classified as a tropical depression Thursday afternoon.
A general weakening trend is expected to continue on Monday and Tuesday as Amanda heads northward into stronger wind shear and cooler water.
Amanda will remain over the open waters of the eastern Pacific, posing no direct threat to land. However, moisture from the storm could be drawn into northern Mexico, the Southwest U.S. and eventually the Four Corners region of the U.S. leading to enhanced thunderstorm activity later in the week.
Amanda is just the start of what is likely to be a busy hurricane season in the eastern Pacific.
With the onset of El Niño this summer, AccuWeather.com meteorologists expect above-normal tropical activity in the eastern Pacific this season.
AccuWeather will also be monitoring the western Caribbean for possible tropical development late in May and during early June.
“The western part of the Caribbean Sea is a favored area for early season tropical activity in the Atlantic basin and there is a chance a non-tropical system dips southward in this area late in the month, which could allow for some development,” AccuWeather.com Tropical Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski said.
AccuWeather.com Meteorologists Courtney Spamer and Alex Sosnowski and Staff Writer Mark Leberfinger contributed content to this story.
More at AccuWeather: Amanda Becomes Strongest May Eastern Pacific Hurricane