Tropical Storm Maria has formed; expected to become hurricane

UPDATE 11 PM:

At 11 p.m., Maria was about 545 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and 2,000 miles from Palm Beach. It was moving west at 16 mph. Top sustained winds were at 50 mph. It would become a hurricane if top sustained winds reach 76 mph. A hurricane watch was posted for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Anguilla, and Guadeloupe, and a tropical storm watch was in place for St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

At 11 p.m., Lee was about 760 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands and some 3,700 miles from Palm Beach. It was moving west at 8 mph, down from 12 mph. It had top sustained winds of 40 mph. Jose was about 465 miles south-southeast Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and about the same distance west-southeast of Bermuda. Winds still were at 80 mph. It was moving north at 7 mph.

 

UPDATE 8 PM:

The busy tropics hosted three named storms Saturday, with new Tropical Storm Maria possibly emerging as a tangible threat for storm-weary Floridians.

Maria became the season’s 13th named storm at 5 p.m. Saturday, and forecasters said it quickly could grow to the season’s seventh hurricane.

Already 2017 has surpassed the average total of 12 named storms in an entire season, and the United States already has seen millions in damages from Harvey’s drenching of Texas and Irma’s pounding of Florida.

At 8 p.m., Maria was about 590 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and 2,000 miles from Palm Beach. It was moving west at 19 mph. Top sustained winds were at 50 mph. It would become a hurricane if top sustained winds reach 76 mph.

“Maria is forecast to be a hurricane when it approaches the Leeward Islands early (this) week,” an advisory said.

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A new hurricane watch was posted for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Guadeloupe, and a tropical storm watch was in place for St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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A collection of “spaghetti” tracks assembled by the South Florida Water Management District shows Maria taking the oft-followed route toward Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, but then keeping offshore. Of course, things could change. Hurricane Center specialist John Cangialosi, in an 11 a.m. discussion, noted that “confidence in the track and forward speed of this system is low due to the spread in the models and the current lack of a well-defined center.”

Maria found itself Saturday between Hurricane Jose, which had drawn within 500 miles of Bermuda, and Tropical Storm Lee, which formed Saturday morning.

Lee was about 720 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands and  3,700 miles from Palm Beach. It was moving west at 12 mph. It had top sustained winds of 45 mph.

A hurricane hunter plane flew Saturday morning into Jose and reported top sustained winds at 80 mph, with little change in strength forecast through Monday morning.

 

UPDATE 5 P.M.: Tropical Storm Maria has formed, the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 p.m. advisory.

At 5 p.m., the season’s 13th named storm was about 620 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and was moving west at 20 mph. Top sustained winds had jumped to 50 mph, and if they reach 76 mph, Maria would become the season’s seventh hurricane.

Already 2017 has surpassed the average total of 12 named storms in an entire season

A new hurricane watch was posted for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat, and a tropical storm watch was in place for St. Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe, Dominica, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Maria is forecast to be a hurricane when it approaches the Leeward Islands early next week,” the 5 p.m. advisory said.

 

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UPDATE 2 PM: A system that could become Tropical Storm Maria later Saturday — and which eventually might become a tangible threat for storm-weary Floridians — already has prompted a tropical storm watch for the Caribbean’s easternmost islands.

The National Hurricane Center said in a 2 p.m. advisory that the system had become Tropical Depression 15 and that a tropical storm watch was up for the islands of St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Barbados, and  St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Additional tropical storm or hurricane watches will likely be issued later today,” the 2 p.m. Saturday advisory said. “The depression is forecast to become a tropical storm later today and could be near hurricane strength when it approaches the Leeward Islands.”

A collection of “spaghetti” tracks assembled by the South Florida Water Management District shows the system taking the oft-followed route toward Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, but then keep it off shore. But that of course could change.

“The NHC  track forecast takes the system across the Leeward Islands in a few days and then near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” hurricane center specialist John Cangialosi  said in an 11 a.m. discussion. But he noted that  “confidence in the track and forward speed of this system is low due to the spread in the models and the current lack of a well-defined center.”

At 2 p.m. Saturday, the storm was at latitude 11.9 North, longitude 51.6 West., about 700 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles. It was moving west at about 20 mph,

Top sustained winds already were at 35 mph, just 2 mph below the threshold to make it a tropical storm. It would become a hurricane if top sustained winds reach 76 mph.

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