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Tropical Storm Isaias likely to form today; path still includes Florida as track shifts slightly west

Atlantic hurricane season

The disturbance now called Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine has not yet become Tropical Storm Isaias, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. Wednesday public advisory.

The storm still lacks a well-defined center of circulation, but it is still expected to become a tropical storm Wednesday or Wednesday night, Senior Hurricane Specialist Daniel Brown wrote in the latest forecast discussion describing the meteorological conditions of the storm.

All of Florida remains in the forecast cone, but the projected path of the storm has been edging slightly west. Whereas the center of the cone on Tuesday was aiming for Florida’s southeastern Atlantic Coast, that center on Wednesday has veered slightly west to Florida’s Gulf Coast, as of the 11 a.m. outlook.

But it’s still early in the forecast for both the storm’s path and intensity. So far the disturbance is projected to remain a tropical storm for its foreseeable duration, meaning it was not expected to strengthen into a hurricane.

But because the future Isaias (ees-ah-EE-ahs) still lacks a center, or eye, uncertainty is unusually high, said Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami.

“It still must be stressed that since the system lacks a well-defined center and remains in its formative stage, uncertainty in the specifics of the track forecast remain high in both the short and longer range,” Brown said in the discussion.

The storm was expected to continue on a west-northwest track, possibly turning northwest as it gets closer to Florida, the National Weather Service Miami said in its 11 a.m. briefing, adding that “interaction with land, as well as strong upper level winds before approaching Florida, could play a major role in what impacts are felt in South Florida.”

Tropical storm-force gusts could arrive here as early as Friday night, but Saturday is much more likely, NWS Miami said Wednesday.

South Florida’s chances for experiencing tropical storm-force winds (speeds of at least 39 mph) stand at 15% to 25% in the next five days, the weather service said.

It also said that “ahead of any impacts from the (impending) tropical system, most of the rainfall this week will be over the interior and Gulf coast of southern Florida,” with rain chances increasing for Florida’s east coast on Friday.

At 11 a.m., the storm was about 240 southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with maximum sustained winds of about 45 mph.

It is expected to continue aiming west-northwest with a dead-center pass over Hispaniola (the island that comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti), contending with mountains as high as 10,000 feet.

The storm’s Caribbean journey was expected to take it on a path across the Leeward Islands of the northeastern Caribbean then over, or close to, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and the Bahamas before closing in on Florida.

Some increase in strength is forecast Wednesday, with weakening likely on Thursday as it goes over the storm-disrupting mountainous terrain of Hispaniola, then some restrengthening is possible later this week.

saias would be the ninth named storm of the already busy 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

There have been four other tropical storms so far this month: Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo and Hanna. Other named storms this year have included Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal and Dolly. Tropical Storm Arthur formed in mid-May, making this the sixth straight year that a named storm formed before the official start of hurricane season on June 1.

Virtually all estimates for this hurricane season predict an above-average number of storms, due to unusually warm ocean temperatures and global climate factors that are likely to reduce the high-altitude winds that can prevent the formation of hurricanes. On July 8, Colorado State University issued a slightly more pessimistic outlook for hurricane season than its earlier forecast, upping the number of named storms from 19 to 20.

Broward Sheriff tells local residents to prepare now

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said that it was “absolutely essential that the community begins to prepare” for Isaias and other potential storms that may come this hurricane season.

The sheriff made the comments during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.

Tony also addressed the impact that COVID-19 will likely have during hurricane season. He said the biggest hurdle officials anticipate is the ability to effectively social-distance while taking in large numbers of people at county storm shelters.

South Floridians should “start to examine what other opportunities or options they may have to be out of South Florida, to push inland or even to push out of the state in advance,” Tony said.

“The more that we can do as individuals and focus on the things we can do to reduce the burden on government will be extremely helpful as the mayor, the county administrator are tackling different new challenges and trying to be innovative to the point where we’re not shutting down government completely, but at the same time, we’re not unnecessarily allowing for hazards and exposures to this virus.”


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