Posted on Monday, 06.30.14
BY JENNY STALETOVICH
A slow-moving swirl of rain and thunderstorms ambling south along the coast of Central Florida is likely to become the first tropical depression of the 2014 hurricane season, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Monday.
The storm, which was moving at about 5 mph with a radius of about 222 miles, is expected to miss South Florida, but could dump rain on the area Monday and Tuesday before pivoting north Wednesday and then heading northeast on Thursday. The hurricane center sent a reconnaissance plane Monday afternoon that found that the storm is well-defined but it had not yet intensified into a tropical storm.
“If this thing does become a tropical cyclone — and it’s got a high chance — it will within 48 hours. Then a tropical storm watch could be required for Central and North Florida,” said hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen. “It’s close, so only a slight increase in organization would result in this being a tropical depression.”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters have predicted a slow season this year, controlled in part by an El Niño weather pattern warming Pacific waters. They expect just eight to 13 tropical storms. Three to six could become hurricanes, but no more than two are predicted to become major storms. No hurricanes have struck Florida in eight years.
Seeing a storm form along the U.S. coast this early in the season is not unusual, Feltgen said, since waters are warm. As the season progresses, storms tend to form in the east Atlantic.
“This time last year, we’d already had two named storms, Andrea and Barry,” Feltgen said. “And Andrea was the only storm to make landfall [in the U.S.] all of last year when it went into the Panhandle.”
Andrea formed in the Gulf of Mexico and took a direct path east, coming ashore in the Florida Panhandle before heading east and north along the coast. Barry, a tropical depression, formed off the coast of Nicaragua, then headed west to Central Mexico. In July, the east Atlantic churned up two more storms, Chantal and Dorian. But only Dorian threatened the U.S., making a beeline for Florida, which is hit more than any other state, before making a turn and falling apart off the coast of South Carolina.