Hurricane Forecasters Watching System in Southwestern Caribbean for Storm Development

The U.S. Gulf Coast has gotten off relatively easy this hurricane season, but even though October has arrived, it’s not over yet. The Atlantic Basin hurricane season, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, runs through the end of November. Storms that form late in the season historically come from the west —including the western Caribbean, Bay of Campeche and the southern Gulf of Mexico.

That’s perhaps why some forecasters are keeping an eye on a low-pressure system in the southwestern Caribbean Sea. The environment is not conducive to development at the moment, but the National Hurricane Center said the broad area of low pressure system, currently disorganized showers and thunderstorms, could get more favorable conditions as it drifts north in the days and week ahead.

“Some gradual development of this system is possible late this week and this weekend while the low drifts generally northward during the next several days," the National Hurricane Center said.

The National Hurricane Center gives the system a 20 percent chance of developing into a named storm in five days. The chance of development within 48 hours is zero, according to the latest forecast models update on Tuesday. But because the storm is expected to drift north, and because waters in the Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico are quite warm, it’s possible the system could develop next week with land interests at risk in every direction. 

Even though hurricane season lasts until the end of November, the majority of sizable hurricanes to hit the United States occur before October. But since the hurricanes that do develop typically originate from the western Caribbean, the Bay of Campeche and the southern Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Coast states, including Florida, are at greater risk than other areas. Major hurricanes to hit Florida in October include Opal in 1995 and Isbell in 1964.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the rest of the U.S. is risk-free for the rest of hurricane season. Consider that Hurricane Sandy hit the northern East Coast on October 29 from the Atlantic, making landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey. Sandy was a Category 1 storm, but because it hit during a full moon that raised the tide, its storm surge was amplified.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Leslie remains in the Atlantic and will likely strengthen into a hurricane and four or five days before powering back down to a tropical storm late this week. The storm is also expected to track to the east later this week, well away from the U.S.

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