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Miami Might Be Spared From Tropical Storm Laura

Tropical Storm Laura
Tropical Storm Laura
Photo by National Hurricane Center
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Update, 5:15 p.m.: As of the 5 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, it appears that only the Florida Keys are directly in the forecast cone for Tropical Storm Laura. Monroe County has declared a local state of emergency ahead of the storm and ordered all residents living in boats, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, travel trailers, and campers to evacuate.

Thirteen might not be such a terribly unlucky number after all.

Tropical Storm Laura, formerly known as tropical depression 13, was on track to approach Miami as a Category 1 as soon as Monday, August 24 — the 28th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew's landfall. But the most recent advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows most of South Florida is now out of the cone of uncertainty.

Still, forecasters say the storm could bring storm surge, rain, and wind to parts of Cuba, the Bahamas, and Florida early next week.

As of noon Friday, Laura has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and is moving west at 18 mph. The depression formed Wednesday night, and hurricane hunters found the system to be poorly organized Thursday evening. But it's moving.

"On the forecast track, the center of Laura will move near or over the northern Leeward Islands later today, near or over Puerto Rico Saturday morning, and near the northern coast of Hispaniola late Saturday and early Sunday," forecasters with the National Hurricane Center say.

At 11 a.m., the storm was 210 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands. Laura hasn't been around for long, but she's already breaking records. According to Brian McNoldy, a weather researcher at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, Laura is the season's 12th named storm.

"Over the past fifty years, the average date of the 12th named storm formation is November 26th: the end of the season," McNoldy wrote today in a blog post.

Laura is also the earliest L-named storm, a record previously held by Luis, which formed on August 29, 1995, according to AccuWeather.

She's also one of two storms making their way toward the Gulf of Mexico at the same time. Tropical depression 14, soon-to-be Tropical Storm Marco, is currently north of Honduras.

"This trajectory brings it into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday morning.... Laura is expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico on Monday morning, so it might get crowded," McNoldy writes.

The last time two systems shared the Gulf of Mexico was in 1933, according to the National Weather Service.

Laura has brought on tropical storm warnings for the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the northern coast of Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos. The storm is expected to bring heavy rain to these areas, possibly causing mudslides and flash floods.

According to the National Hurricane Center, "details of the long-range track and intensity forecasts are more uncertain than usual" because the system could weaken or strengthen depending on whether it moves over some of the large, mountainous islands of the Caribbean this weekend.

The storm's path may have shifted south and mostly away from South Florida, but parts of the state still face risks. The Florida Division of Emergency Management urges residents to start getting ready now and monitor weather conditions. Officials recommend having seven days' worth of food, medication, and other supplies. The forecast cone shows Laura may develop into a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday morning and reach the Panhandle Wednesday morning. 

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