Tropical Storm Gaston strengthening; new storm raising concern

MIAMI, Aug. 23 (UPI) — Tropical Storm Gaston continues to strengthen over the open Atlantic, but another storm that could become Hermine is being watched as a potential threat to the Southeast, from Florida north.

Although it is forecast to reach hurricane strength by Wednesday, Gaston is not expected to be a threat to anything but shipping in the Atlantic. Its forecast track keeps it well away from land through the next 5 days. With maximum winds of 65 mph, Gaston is moving west-northwest at 21 mph. The seventh tropical storm of the season, Gaston was about 685 miles west of the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.

A tropical wave a few hundred miles east of the Leeward Islands is of enough concern that an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter inspected it late Tuesday morning. Currently a large but disorganized collection of thunderstorms. The wave is moving at 15 to 20 mph through an area that will stifle its growth in the next two days. Another Hurricane Hunter is scheduled to inspect the storm Wednesday.

The tropical wave’s forecast track takes it over the northeastern Caribbean and it will be over the Bahamas by the weekend, finding ample fuel for strengthening amid record warm ocean temperatures along the way. No warnings have been issued yet but the NHC suggests people in those areas should be prepared.

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“Gusty winds, heavy rains and possible flash floods and mud slides could occur over these areas regardless of tropical cyclone formation,” according to an 8 a.m. NHC update.

It’s currently expected to pass north of Hispaniola, avoiding mountains that could tear it apart. A highly reliable computer model used to predict tropical storm tracks and strength puts the storm over South Florida as a Category 1 hurricane between Sunday and early next week.

Though reliable, such models have difficulty predicting with great accuracy that far out in time – especially a storm’s intensity – but it’s of enough concern that Florida residents and others in the Southeast and the Gulf Coast should make sure they are prepared as the peak Atlantic hurricane season arrives.

This automatically updated infrared satellite animation shows a large tropical wave building strength northeast of the Caribbean.

Using the Hurricane Hunter’s direct observations, NHC forecasters slightly downgraded the disturbance to having a 40 percent chance of becoming a named storm within the next 48 hours. The chance for formation within 5 days remains at 60 percent. The next Atlantic tropical cyclone will be named Hermine.

Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters with Weather Underground says, in his opinion, the 5-day probability should be 70 percent.

“This storm has the potential to be a dangerous one for the Bahamas and the Southeast United States,” Masters wrote in his blog Tuesday.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 miles due east of Miami, Fiona is barely holding on as a tropical depression over open water in the northern mid-Atlantic. That storm isn’t expected to affect land and no storm watches or warnings were in place.

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