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Special Event

National Hurricane Center Downgrades Debby to a Tropical Storm

Aired August 23, 2000 - 11:00 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Go to the National Hurricane Center and Max Mayfield, an update on Debby.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: ... some new information, based on what we have been looking at this morning on satellite imagery, we are downgrading Debby from a hurricane to a tropical storm. The maximum sustained winds are now near 70 miles per hour.

I don't want people to let down their guard because we still think it has a good chance to come back and regain hurricane status.

If you look at the loop behind me here, you will see the enhanced infrared satellite loop. It looks very impressive on the infrared imagery, but if we look at this in the visible, I think you will see what is really going on here.

You can see a little bit of turning in this area. We think that is a mid-level circulation center. And the low level center is out here somewhere on the West Coast.

What has happened during the night, the low-level inflow coming up from the Caribbean is being blocked by the mountains of Hispaniola. So Debby, right now, is really struggling. In fact, it was not able to maintain the hurricane status, and that is why we downgraded it to a tropical storm.

We have made some changes with the watches and warnings. And, again, if you will please look behind me, we now continue to have a hurricane warning out for the southeastern and central Bahamas. We have also talked to the Cuban Miloto (ph) Service, and they have issued a hurricane warning for the eastern provinces of Cuba right in here. We also have a hurricane watch in effect for the northwest Bahamas and portions of the north-central coast of Cuba.

I think that, when we talk about the long-range forecasting, we need to look at the water vapor imagery here. Behind me, the missions that we had last night. We had a jet aircraft and one of the Air Force C-130 planes that flew in the environment around the hurricane, and they were able to detect a narrow ridge of high pressure extending from the southeastern United States down to just to the northwest of Debby. When that information got into the computer models last night, we did see some significant in change the models. Most of those projections now are keeping Debby in a more southerly track and that keeps it somewhat closer to Hispaniola and to Cuba.

Our official forecast right now looks like this. We are thinking that it will be somewhere off the east coast of Cuba, the center of the tropical storm, off the east coast of Cuba by this time tomorrow morning.

Then, by Friday morning, will be somewhere in the vicinity between Andros and Cuba. And we make a three-day forecast every six hours, and we do that to the nearest tenth of a degree. I don't want to give anyone the impression that we really have that type of accuracy. But we are forecasting it to be near South Florida and the Keys within three day's time.

I know everyone is very interested in the timing of the watches and warnings, the fact that it has weaken is certainly very good news. I think that, on the track it is on now, especially with this movement, it is moving westward right now. but we think a more west- northwestward motion of around 16 miles per hour will resume.

We likely will put up a watch of some sort for South Florida and the Keys later this evening or tonight. We really want to give people, you know, 12 hours of daylight, if at all possible, if indeed it becomes a hurricane. So I think we are OK to hold off on that until tomorrow morning.

And with that, I will be glad to try to answer any questions, if I can. Amy.

HEMMER: All right, Max Mayfield will continue to take a question-and-answer session down there. But decent news, a silver lining there, Debby has been downgraded now, tropical storm Debby, TS Debby, to 70 miles per hour. Those mountains of Hispaniola that Flip was talking about yesterday seemed to have interfered -- the elevation there in Hispaniola anyway, to force Debby to struggle now with her continued movement through there.

But, again, as Max Mayfield said, difficult to say where we go from here.

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