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A tropical system swirling across the western Caribbean became dramatically better organized Friday and is now expected to become a depression or Tropical Storm Philippe today or tomorrow.
Storm warnings and watches could be issued as early as this evening for parts of the Caribbean and the Bahamas based on a what a hurricane hunter plane finds this afternoon, said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.
“We’re going to get really, really wet tomorrow. That’s the bad news,” he said. “The good news is whatever this is should stay well to our east.”
For much of the week, the system has been brewing off the coast of Central America, generating showers and thunderstorms. Forecasters gave the system a 60 percent chance of forming, then backed off the odds when it looked like high winds associated with a cold front crossing South Florida would hinder intensification.
Still, they warned that as the system moved north over warm Caribbean waters and encountered low wind shear, there was a chance the system could become better organized.
Late season storms forming in the western tropics are not unusual and have historically behaved dramatically, sometimes intensifying rapidly. Both Hurricanes Mitch and Wilma were late Caribbean storms with lethal power.
“It’s just been a very moist monsoonal flow through Central America. It’s very typical for October and it’s not at all unusual for tropical storms to form in the western Caribbean,” Feltgen said.
Most track model tracks have the storm avoiding South Florida, but forecasts on systems before they organize can be many miles off.
Over the next day or two, heavy rain is also expected over the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, parts of Cuba and the northwestern and central Bahamas. As the system moves up the U.S. coast, it’s expected to merge with a cold front and likely hit the coast with a fierce Nor’easter.
During that transformation, it’s possible the system undergoes a ‘bombogenesis,’ Feltgen said, when air pressure drops 24 millibars in 24 hours, Feltgen said.