The odds of a tropical wave just west of the African coast strengthening to a tropical depression grew to 60 percent by this weekend, while a smaller system closer to Florida could bring rain to the state, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The Atlantic disturbance isn’t expected to form quickly, but that should change as it moves west from the Cabo Verde Islands at 15 mph with broad area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms, said WOFL’s meteorologist Jayme King.
“This [storm] had two obstacles in its path: dry air and wind shear, in that order,” King said. “The dry air has shrunk and the wind shear in the upper atmosphere has eased up. ... Essentially, the path looks like a big long corridor of very favorable conditions that this thing will encounter.”
The “Saharan Air Layer,” or African dust, that was blowing easterly from Africa in June was acting as a type of “dry shield” for Florida choking the life of any storms in the main development region of hurricanes, King said.
But the shield is down, meaning the storm could become a depression by this weekend, King said.
A disturbance that has enough circulation to become a tropical depression can have maximum sustained winds up to 38 mph. It becomes a named tropical storm if its sustained winds exceed 39 mph, and a hurricane with winds of more than 74 mph.
If it does strengthen, it could become the third named storm of the 2019 hurricane season, donning the name “Chantal.”
It is still too early to predict how the storm will affect Florida.
A second tropical wave, which is currently over the Bahamas, contains a 10 percent chance of developing tropical force winds over the next five days, the NHC said in its 2 p.m. update.
The storm could go one of two directions as it bares down on Florida.
It could pass through the Straits of Florida and ride up the Gulf of Mexico bringing heavy rains for most of the state over the weekend, or it could ride up the east coast and possibly develop tropically, King said.
“It’s a small disorganized storm, but it’s important to remember all of your Irmas, Michaels and Florences were all cute little things at one point,” King said. “You have to keep your eyes on these things as we approach the peak of hurricane season.”
Sept. 10 is the peak of hurricane season.
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