As Hurricane Fiona plows north and Tropical Storm Gaston meanders in the Atlantic, a system now in the Caribbean has the attention of long-term forecasts that could bring it close to Florida by next week.
The National Hurricane Center continues to issue advisories on the two named storms including strong Category 4 Hurricane Fiona that could be a threat to Bermuda, but it also is keeping odds on three systems that could become the next tropical depression or storm.
At the top of the list is a tropical wave with showers and thunderstorms already bringing heavy rainfall and gusty winds to the southern Windward Islands and soon Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, northwestern Venezuela and northeastern Colombia.
“The environment is forecast to become more conducive for development, and a tropical depression is likely to form in the next day or so. The low is forecast to move west-northwestward and be over the central Caribbean Sea this weekend where conditions are expected to be conducive for additional development,” said NHC hurricane specialist Lisa Bucci.
The system is expected to move west-northwestward and be in the central Caribbean this weekend. The NHC gives it an 90% chance of formation in the next two days, and 90% within the next five days. The NHC said a tropical depression is expected to form during in the next couple of days while it moves west-northwestward at 10 to 15 mph across the central Caribbean Sea.
Long-term forecast models, often referred to as the spaghetti models, have varying paths for the system, but several expect it to travel over Cuba and threaten Florida by next week.
Acting National Hurricane Center Director Jamie Rhome, though, urged caution about speculation, but did say it’s likely to become a hurricane while still in the Caribbean Sea.
“What we can say is that conditions look favorable for this system to develop into a tropical storm as it moves off to the west-northwest over the central Caribbean Sea,” he said. “And conditions look favorable for potentially become a hurricane here in the northwest Caribbean Sea. That’s as far as we can go at this point.”
He pointed out the system, which is interacting with land around South America could impact its formation and ultimate track.
“While a low-level circulation is trying to form … it’s not there yet and why is this important? Why is it so important to focus? Because the predictability of systems that haven’t formed yet is very, very low,” he said. “And I want to emphasize that because that’s why we can’t say too much about potential impacts in the Gulf of Mexico because until this system actually forms and becomes a well-defined name system, the ability of models the ability of humans to predict where it will go is just really, really, really low.”
Still, what’s often referred to as the spaghetti models have drawn interest from officials in Florida.
“It looks like it’s going to end up being a major hurricane,” said Will Redman, a spokesperson for the National Weather Service Miami.
A major hurricane is classified as Category 3 or above.
Redman said the current path for those long-term forecasts show the storm’s center anywhere between the west coast of Florida and New Orleans, while the area facing the brunt of the hurricane’s force would likely be the Florida Panhandle.
If a hurricane does develop, it would probably form Monday or Tuesday of next week, Redman said.
The NHC is also tracking two more systems with a lower chance of formation.
Closer to Florida in the central tropical Atlantic but with lower chances is a broad area of low pressure several hundred miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. It features disorganized showers and thunderstorms, but is in what the NHC says only marginal environmental conditions.
“Despite marginal environmental conditions, some slow development of this system is possible over the next several days while it moves slowly northwestward or northward over the tropical Atlantic,” Bucci said.
The NHC gives is a 20% chance to form in the next two days and 30% chance in the next five.
Farther away but more likely to form is a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa with showers and thunderstorms now over the warm waters of the far eastern Atlantic Ocean.
“Environmental conditions are forecast to be conducive for some development, and a tropical depression could form by this weekend while the system moves slowly northward, between west Africa and the Cabo Verde Islands,” Bucci said.
Chances are at 60% for formation in the next two to five days.
Whichever system gets to sustained winds of 39 mph or more would take the name Tropical Storm Hermine with the next names on the hurricane list being Ian and Julia.
The biggest storm in the Atlantic, though, is Hurricane Fiona, now barreling north forecast to pass by Bermuda and target Canada.
As of 8 p.m. the NHC puts its center about 280 miles west-southwest of Bermuda, currently under a hurricane warning and where weather conditions have begun to deteriorate this afternoon. It remains a Category 4 major hurricane with 130 mph winds and stronger gusts heading north-northeast at 20 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend out 70 miles with tropical-storm-force winds extending out 275 miles.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre has issues hurricane watches for Nova Scotia from Hubbards to Brule, Prince Edward Island, Isle-de-la-Madeleine and the coast of Newfoundland from Parson’s Pond to Indian Harbour. It also issued tropical storm watches for other sections of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland as well as parts of New Brunswick and Quebec.
While not a threat to Florida, the swells from Fiona are spreading to the west and could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions on the U.S. East Coast including Florida as well as the Bahamas.
“Entering the surf is not advised,” reads a hazardous conditions statement from the National Weather Service in Melbourne noting that seas were also expected to be rough issuing a a Small Craft Advisory with more than 6-foot waves.
It’s expected to pick up forward speed and transition to a powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds when it moves over Nova Scotia this weekend.
Farther out in the Atlantic is Tropical Storm Gaston, which has some of the Azores islands under a tropical storm warning.
As of 5 p.m., the NHC puts Gaston’s center about 245 miles northwest of Faial Island in the Central Azores with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph moving east-northeast at 17 mph. Its tropical-storm-force winds extend out 115 miles.
The system is forecast to weaken over the next few days and then shift paths south and back east as it transitions into a post-tropical cyclone.
Since Sept. 1, the tropics have begun to play catchup churning out four named storms in three weeks after nearly two months of quiet.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in early August updated its season prediction that 2022 would still be above-average with 14 to 21 named storms, although not a single named storm formed in the month of August.
The 2020 hurricane season set a record with 30 named systems, while 2021′s season was the third most active with 21 named systems. An average year calls for 14 named storms.
Through Gaston, 2022 has produced seven named systems.
Sun-Sentinel staff writers contributed to this report.