Tropical Storm Bertha Forms in the Caribbean, Aims Toward Puerto Rico

Despite the usual muggy drenching every afternoon around 4 p.m., Miami's had a fairly dry run through hurricane season so far. But that could change early next week thanks to a large lady named Bertha swirling out over the Caribbean this morning.

The National Hurricane Center declared Bertha the second named tropical storm of the year this morning. Projections have the storm rolling a few hundred miles off Miami's coast by Monday morning.

Bertha is currently packing sustained winds around 45 mph over the open seas about 100 miles off of Barbados. It's headed northwest and should swing close to that island by tonight before steering further north through the Lesser Antilles.

By Sunday, the system should pass over the eastern half of Puerto Rico. Tropical Storm warnings have now been issued for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, St. Lucia and Puerto Rico.

If the projections are accurate, the storm will hit the southernmost islands in the Bahamas on Monday morning. That would be its closest approach to South Florida before missing the mainland United States and veering further out to sea.

The good news is that forecasters don't expect Bertha to strengthen into a hurricane anytime soon, as heavy wind shear and dry air should keep its power contained.

"I predict that 93L will continue to struggle with dry air as it passes through the islands on Friday and Saturday, with top sustained winds between 35 - 50 mph," writes Dr. Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink