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Hurricane center keeps eye on potential system off Florida coast

May 25, 2023 Updated Thu., May 25, 2023 at 6:39 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center gives a 10% chance of a system expected to form in the southwestern Atlantic to grow into a tropical or subtropical depression or storm.    (National Hurricane Center/TNS/TNS)
The National Hurricane Center gives a 10% chance of a system expected to form in the southwestern Atlantic to grow into a tropical or subtropical depression or storm.   (National Hurricane Center/TNS/TNS)
By Richard Tribou Orlando Sentinel Orlando Sentinel

The National Hurricane Center continues to track a system expected to form off the coast of northeast Florida and threaten the southeast U.S.

In its 2 a.m. tropical outlook Thursday, the NHC forecast expects a nontropical area of low pressure to form along a frontal boundary within the next two days in the Atlantic Ocean.

“The system appears unlikely to become a subtropical or tropical cyclone since it is forecast to remain frontal while moving generally northward and inland over the Carolinas this weekend,” said NHC hurricane specialist Philippe Papin.

The NHC gives the system only a 10% chance of forming into a tropical or subtropical depression or storm.

Whether or not it forms into anything with circulation, the system is expected to produce gusty winds and dangerous surf and rip conditions along the coast, which could bode dangerous for the busy Memorial Day weekend.

The National Weather Service out of Melbourne warns that increasing winds from the north as the low spins slowly away from Florida’s coast could produce higher surf and minor beach erosion, especially along the Volusia County coast on Friday into Saturday. Volusia’s coastline has already been hammered by the effects of 2022’s Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.

Related rainfall, though, is expected to pull away from Florida, pulling away the moisture that has been dumping on the state this week.

“Heavy rainfall is expected in portions of the Carolinas with hazardous marine conditions expected over the coastal and offshore waters where gale watches and warnings are in effect,” Papin said.

The official start of the Atlantic hurricane season isn’t until June 1, and runs for six months through Nov. 30, but early storm formation has become the norm in the last two decades.

In fact, the NHC analyzed data from earlier in the year noting the Atlantic already had a subtropical storm in January.

That means the next tracked system will become Tropical or Subtropical Depression Two, and if it were to form into a tropical or subtropical storm, would take the name Arlene.

The hurricane outlook for the Atlantic is slightly below average for 2023 according to several meteorological outlets such as Colorado State University.

The annual forecast released in April authored by CSU expert Dr. Phil Klotzbach expects the year to see 13 named systems with six becoming hurricanes. Of those six, two are forecast to become major hurricanes, either a Category 3, 4 or 5 with at least 111 mph sustained winds.

That falls a little below what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now deems as average over the past three decades of 14 named storms, of which seven are hurricanes and three are major ones.

Last year’s season, which had both Hurricane Ian and Nicole striking Florida, was around that average with 14 named storms, eight hurricanes and two major hurricanes. That was much less storm activity than the record-breaking 2020 season that saw 30 storms, and the 21 storms that formed in 2021.

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