A group of showers and thunderstorms over the central Bahamas has a 20 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone over the next five days. It would be named Dorian.
The year’s third tropical cyclone surprised forecasters late Tuesday by forming in the far North Atlantic, but it’s a disturbance on Florida’s doorstep that’s being watched more closely.
Tropical Storm Chantal, a weak system that may be kaput by Thursday morning, never had more than a 40 percent chance of developing before it forged a closed center 485 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was named by the National Hurricane Center at 11 p.m Tuesday and is no threat to land.
By Wednesday morning, however, another clutch of showers and thunderstorms over the central Bahamas caught the eye of the hurricane center, which gave the cloudy mass a 20 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone over the next five days.
The disturbance, which would be named Dorian if it reaches tropical storm status, is expected to skirt up Florida’s east coast bringing increased chances of rain this weekend.
Paxton Fell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said the showery mass will ride around the western edge of the Bermuda High sending a firehose of tropical moisture to the coast.
MORE: The Palm Beach Post’s hurricane tracking map
“Mostly it’s going to elevate our rain chances for Friday into the weekend,” Fell said. “Normally the east coast would see a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain. This will up it to 40 to 50 percent as it approaches.”
Rip currents and gusty winds also could be a concern depending on how close the system gets to Florida. Coastal Palm Beach County has received 2.3 inches of rain more than what’s normal for this time of year after daily downpours earlier this month, but Fell said the ground has dried out enough that flooding isn’t as big of a threat.
“It’s just not as saturated as it was,” she said.
21 Aug - 10:15am: A broad region of disorganized showers and thunderstorms is located over the Bahamas. While chance of cyclone formation is low with this disturbance, impacts such as localized flooding and gusty winds are still possible Friday through this weekend.#flwxpic.twitter.com/qE89s1i6Jc— NWS Miami (@NWSMiami)August 21, 2019
While likely a rain event for South Florida, top weather models Wednesday were pointing to the system becoming a tropical storm next week farther north, said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, an IBM company.
“Historically, about two-thirds of all Atlantic hurricane activity occurs between August 20 to October 10, so we are due for an uptick in activity in the next few weeks,” Masters said.
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But the 2019 hurricane season has so far proven difficult to predict. A two-week forecast from Colorado State University released Monday showed no tropical cyclones forming this week, with meteorologists from AccuWeather and Weather.com in agreement.
The Climate Prediction Center released an updated forecast last week that called for a busier than normal season - a reversal of its May prediction.
The uncertainty is one reason to keep an eye on the disturbed weather over the Bahamas.
“Historically, this is an area where there has been quick development of weak features,” said Dan Kottlowski, lead hurricane forecaster for AccuWeather.
The hurricane center gave Chantal only a 10 percent chance of development nine hours before it was named. Masters said Chantal formed in an unfriendly environment with high wind shear, marginally-warm ocean temperatures and dry air.
This time of year, most focus is on the tropical runway from the coast of Africa into the Gulf of Mexico, not south of Newfoundland where Chantal was named.
“Chantal was a surprise,” Masters said. “Anytime we go from a 10 percent chance of formation at 2 p.m. to a tropical storm at 11 p.m., that qualifies as a surprise.”
Went to bed, NHC had a 10% chance of a tropical cyclone with regards to invest#97L. Woke up this AM and suddenly there's Tropical Storm#Chantal! Boy that escalated quickly. TS Chantal becomes the second tropical cyclone of 2019 and is no threat to land.pic.twitter.com/1fsyvyBs1u— Michael Ventrice (@MJVentrice)August 21, 2019
Chantal is expected to spin harmlessly around itself before weakening to a depression Friday.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the storm had 40 mph winds and was about 515 miles south-southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland. It was expected to weaken to a depression Thursday. While no threat to land, the storm is notable for its high latitude formation at 40.2 degrees North, or roughly near the same latitude as Long Island.
CSU hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said Chantal is the highest latitude named storm in the Atlantic since 1998′s Tropical Storm Alberto.
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.