Update 8/26: Looks like Miami's hurricane-free streak will survive after all. The tropical wave has now fizzled north of Cuba and while it could still reform into a strong storm over the Gulf and threaten other parts of Florida, it's not likely to have a serious impact on South Florida this weekend.
Come October, it will be exactly 11 years since Hurricane Wilma tore across South Florida. Astoundingly, no hurricane has made landfall in the state since. That's a statistical quirk that has to end soon. In fact, it might end early next week.
A tropical wave just east of the Leeward Islands is gaining steam this morning and now has a 50 percent chance of growing into Tropical Storm Hermine in the next 48 hours, according to NOAA's National Hurricane Center. Of more concern to the Sunshine State: The majority of computer simulations now have the storm tracking northwest, right toward our coastline.
"Conditions for development will steadily improve in the coming days, and the storm could be trouble for the Bahama Islands late this week — and is a threat to make landfall along the U.S. East Coast early next week," writes Dr. Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground.
Of course, even in this age of satellite data and advanced computer metrics, predicting a storm's path and intensity a week out is still a very inexact science. The storm, which is still called 99L today, could stall on a patch of dry Saharan air or get torn to shreds by the mountains of Hispaniola.
But that caveat aside, the conditions make this storm worth watching in Miami and across Florida's coastline.
NOAA is dispatching an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter plane to investigate the system later this morning. At the moment, it's moving at 15 to 20 mph northwest and has begun building up a core of organized thunderstorms at its center.
The storm should pass through the Leeward Islands tonight and affect Hispaniola and the southern Bahamas by Thursday, Masters reports. Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas could face serious flooding as the system dumps inches of water on the island nations.
That's when things will get interesting for Florida. If the storm survives its trek over mountainous Hispaniola, it will likely turn north and slow down over the baking-hot waters around the Bahamas. That could give it a chance to seriously intensify before colliding with Florida.
"The steering situation is too complex next week to say how great a threat the storm may pose to the U.S., but 99L is a legitimate threat to make landfall along the East Coast," Masters writes.
Invest 99L isn't the only storm churning in the Atlantic. A system off the coast of Africa developed into Tropical Storm Gaston early this morning, though most tracking systems have it veering off into the North Atlantic. Tropical Depression Fiona, meanwhile, is still chugging west of Bermuda.
Will Tropical Storm Hermine soon join them? (Incidentally — it's pronounced "Her-MEEN," according to Brian McNoldy, senior research associate at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School.) It's too early to tell.
So hold off on buying stacks of plywood and fresh generators for now. But it might not be a bad idea to stock up on water and rum supplies when you swing by Publix.
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