Update: Tropical Storm Maria formed Saturday afternoon, some 600 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Maria is expected to quickly intensify to hurricane strength over the next 24 hours, as the storm tracks westward towards warm ocean water and a favorable environment for further development.
Tropical storm and hurricane watches are in place for much of the Lesser Antilles, including the island of Barbuda, which was completely devastated by Irma just over a week ago. Maria is currently forecast to pass close to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico early next week, potentially as a dangerous major hurricane.
Hurricane Jose continued to meander off the Southeast coast on Saturday, located about 500 miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C.
After weakening to a tropical storm on Thursday, Jose returned to Category 1 hurricane status Friday night. Its maximum sustained winds were 80 mph as of Saturday morning.
A sprawling high-pressure system over the central Atlantic Ocean is preventing Jose from heading out to sea, meaning it could pose a threat to parts of the East Coast through the coming week.
Under weak upper-level winds, Jose has made limited forward progress since last Saturday. However, over the next few days, the western edge of the high-pressure system that is trapping Jose is expected to weaken. This should create a path for escape away from shore.
The consensus track from the latest weather model updates now keeps Jose well off the Mid-Atlantic coast, with the storm likely to make its closest pass to the D.C. region Tuesday. At that point, Jose should be some 100 miles or more east of Delaware, meaning the local impact will mostly be limited to large ocean swells. Farther north, however, the storm could come closer to land.
Because a slight change in track to the west or east could meaningfully alter the forecast, Jose will be monitored locally into the early week. Folks on Long Island and across coastal New England, however, should keep increased attention to Jose as the week progresses. It is unclear what the intensity of Jose will be at that point — it may even be acting somewhat like a wintertime nor’easter by then. Regardless, the likelihood of impacts such as strong winds and at least minor storm surge is heightened.
No rest for the weary
Tropical storm action in the Atlantic remains extremely active. Tropical Storm Lee was named Saturday morning off the African coast, to the west of the Cabo Verde Islands.
Out ahead of Lee, a potentially more ominous low-pressure disturbance is gathering steam. Likely to soon be christened Maria, this area of organized convection is showing signs of intensification. It is presently tracking due west toward the Lesser Antilles.
Unfortunately, conditions similar to those that allowed Hurricane Irma to intensify and track through parts of the island chain are still more or less in place. Current model projections are certainly concerning for a region still reeling. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting a hurricane in the days ahead, and it is possible some places could take a second direct hit from a major hurricane over the coming week.
Farther down the line, if a hurricane survives its trek near or through the islands, the United States may have to watch this as well.