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Tropical Update: Could A New Tropical System Track Into the Gulf?

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So far, during the 2014 hurricane season, the Atlantic Basin has been relatively quite. As of mid-August, only three tropical systems have formed in the Atlantic. Two of those systems made it to hurricane-strength. Arthur made landfall on the North Carolina coast in early July. Bertha skirted the East Coast in early August, but stayed out to sea. That said, as we close in on the climatological high-point of the Atlantic hurricane season — September 10 — the tropics seem to be responding in kind.

At present, a tropical disturbance — called “Invest-96 L,” — is spinning its way across the lower latitudes of the Atlantic Ocean. Forecast models are calling for the storm to intensify and follow a track toward the Lesser Antilles, then potentially moving toward the U.S. The storm is currently moving west-northwest at 10-15 miles per hour and is located about 500 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.

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Recent satellite images from the area show an unorganized system with some robust convection (thunderstorms) around an ill-defined center of circulation. But the system is moving into an environment with very little wind shear, very little dry air and bathwater-like sea surface temperatures; meaning it’s an environment ripe for additional development. The National Hurricane Center in Miami has given the tropical wave a 50 percent chance of becoming a depression in the next 48 hours and a 60 percent chance over the next five days. The Hurricane Hunters are scheduled to investigate the storm late Thursday afternoon, this will give us a better idea of the storm’s level of organization.

Regardless of tropical depression formation, parts of the Lesser Antilles could be pummeled with heavy rains and gusty winds Thursday night into Friday. People that live in, or are visiting, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands or the Dominican Republic should keep an eye on the storm.

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After it passes the the Lesser Antilles and other Caribbean nations, some forecast models indicate that it could move into a position that impacts the U.S. Potentially becoming to second tropical system, this year, to lash the U.S. coast.

If the storm is named, it would be called “Cristobal.”

That said, much remains to be seen with regards to the storm’s potential path. So, take fly-by-night forecasts floating around social media — that say the storm could have a major U.S. impact next week — with a huge grain of salt.

The experts at WeatherNation will be keeping an eye on the tropics through the rest of the week and through the weekend as well. We’ll bring you the most up-to-date information as it becomes available to us.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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