National Hurricane Center watching area of low pressure expected to form near Cuba

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A broad area of low pressure expected to form southwest of Cuba has a “medium chance” of developing into a tropical depression over the next five days, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Gradual development of the disturbance is possible as it slowly moves west-northwest over the northwestern Caribbean Sea. The hurricane center gives it a near-zero percent chance of formation over the next 48 hours but a 50% chance of development later this week.

“Right now the thinking is it will either probably go west into the Yucatan or it’ll slowly creep northward up toward Florida during the latter part of the week and then early next week,” said Dan Kottlowski lead hurricane forecaster for AccuWeather. “Either scenario right now is pretty much a question mark.”

Kottlowski said disturbances that develop in October in this area of the Caribbean are tough to predict. He used Hurricane Michael, which struck Florida’s panhandle in 2018, as an example.

“We were dealing with an area of low pressure very similar to this, developed down off the coast of Honduras, and initially models had nothing, had just a weak storm coming northward and that was it,” he said. “And you know what happened to Michael. Michael was a Cat 5 and it blasted Panama City … a lot of weather systems that develop down there are very difficult to forecast in October because there’s a lot of scenarios that can play out in these kinds of situations.

This has been a busy hurricane season with nine named storms making landfall in the continental U.S., which ties the record number established in 1916. Beta become the first storm named after a letter of the Greek alphabet to make landfall in the continental U.S. when it hit Texas on Sept. 21.

The 2020 hurricane season is rivaling 2005 for activity. The 2005 season, which featured hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, both of which made South Florida landfalls, had a record 28 named storms.

So far, the 2020 season has produced 23 named storms.

This is the heart of hurricane season and NHC director Ken Graham posted an online reminder earlier this month to remain vigilant and aware of developments.

Because 2020 is a La Nina year, forecasters have expected late-season storm activity to increase in late September and October and possibly even carry into November. Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.

The Atlantic Ocean has been undergoing a lull in storm activity. Last week marked the first time in about three weeks the National Hurricane Center didn’t detect any activity worth monitoring.

A shift in the jet stream is the suspected cause for the current lull in storm activity. It’s responsible for producing high pressure that is forming an elongated area of wind shear.

But forecasters still expect a busy October, perhaps starting with the system that could form soon.

“I’d say right now we feel confident there will be at least some kind of an area of low pressure developing down there,” Kottlowski said, “but where it goes and what becomes of the intensity of this system is really highly speculative right now.”


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