As you might expect, the Atlantic is waking up as we get into mid-August, but it’s not hyperactive just yet. There are also two active storms in the Pacific, and one could be a threat to land.
Tropical Depression Fred remains fairly weak this afternoon near the northern coast of Cuba. It’s centered about 245 miles southeast of Key West, Florida, moving toward the west-northwest at 12 mph. Maximum sustained winds are only near 35 mph. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Florida Keys, with a Tropical Storm Watch in effect for parts of southwestern Florida and northern Cuba.
The combination of wind shear and interaction with land has kept Fred weak for the past couple of days, and that will continue for the next 12-24 hours. After that, Fred should turn more toward the northwest and eventually north, crossing the Florida Keys and moving into the eastern Gulf of Mexico. This should allow for some strengthening. Fred may regain tropical storm strength, but it does not (at least for now) look like it will become a hurricane before its eventual in the Florida Panhandle late Sunday or early Monday.
With a track expected to be just off the west coast of Florida, that means that much of the peninsula can expect heavy rain and some gusty winds this weekend. While winds won’t be exceptional, some gusts to 40 mph are possible, especially near the Gulf coast. Rainfall totals of 3-6 inches are expected across the region with some heavier amounts likely. Flood Watches are in effect for parts of the region. The other threat across the area will be for tornadoes. With tropical cyclones, the threat for tornadoes is highest in the right front quadrant of a storm. With a storm moving northward like this one, that means north and east of the center, which in this case will be across much of Florida.
Fred isn’t the only system in the Atlantic that we’re watching right now. A disturbance centered about 775 miles east of the Leeward Islands is gradually organizing this afternoon. It doesn’t quite have a closed circulation yet, but it is expected to over the next 12-24 hours, so the National Hurricane Center has designated it “Potential Tropical Cyclone Seven”. This designation allows Tropical Storm Watches to be issued for much of the Leeward Islands. For now, it’s not really a storm, but we’ll let NHC play their games. The system is moving westward at 21 mph, and maximum sustained winds are near 35 mph.
The future of this system is uncertain. Some models have it continue westward, across the Leeward Islands and into the eastern Caribbean, following a similar path to Fred, near or just south of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, then across Hispaniola. This would keep the system fairly weak. Other models have it a little farther north, passing north of PR/VI and Hispaniola, and into the Bahamas. This would allow for a stronger storm. However, the storm also needs to slow down a bit, or it won’t strengthen that fast, no matter what track it takes. Either way, the system will bring heavy rain and squally conditions to the Leeward Islands on Saturday, and PR/VI through the weekend.
Meanwhile, in the eastern Pacific, Hurricane Linda continues to strengthen. At midday, Linda had maximum sustained winds near 105 mph, and was centered about 430 miles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, moving toward the west-northwest at 13 mph. Linda may strengthen a bit more over the next day or two, becoming a Major Hurricane during that time frame. After that, it should begin to weaken. Linda will head in a general westerly direction for the next few days, likely remaining over open water. The only impact it will have is large swells moving into the west coast of Mexico, creating hazardous rip currents.
Out in the Western Pacific, Tropical Storm 16W is starting to gather strength. The system is centered about 235 miles east-northeast of Enewetak, where a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect. It is moving toward the west at 14 mph, with maximum sustained winds near 40 mph. It is expected to maintain its current strength through the weekend while heading westward. It may start to strengthen by the end of the weekend, and could become a threat to parts of the Northern Mariana Islands by early next week.
Elsewhere, the tropics remain quiet for now, but that likely won’t last too long as we are rapidly approaching the peak of hurricane season in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.