Tropical Storm Fiona joined by another new disturbance, hurricane center now watching three systems

Tropical Storm Fiona continued a steady trek across the tropical Atlantic Thursday with no aspirations of building to hurricane strength or plans to hit land.

But trailing Fiona are two disturbances — one newly identified Thursday — that may have bigger ambitions.

Check the Palm Beach Post interactive storm tracking map.


Both were given a 20 percent chance of development over the next five days, but the most recent disturbance is farther off the coast of Africa with a five-day track that puts it at the doorstep of the Lesser Antilles by the middle of next week.

The National Hurricane Center said the system, a disorganized cluster of thunderstorms 300 miles southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands, is moving west at about 15 mph.

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Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger with Weather Underground, said the newest disturbance is one to watch because it is traveling at a lower latitude.

“It’s certainly a little more concerning,” Henson said. “It doesn’t have a strong circulation yet, but it’s as big as Fiona, if not larger. It looks like it could be a fairly well sized tropical system if it does develop.”

Michael Lowry, a hurricane specialist with the Weather Channel, agreed the disturbance bears watching.

“We are getting toward the peak of hurricane season and it doesn’t take a large part of the ocean to create a hurricane,” Lowry said. “If the right conditions come into play, this is the time of year you can get quick development.”


Tropical Storm Fiona had 45 mph winds as of 5 p.m. Thursday and was heading west-northwest at about 8 mph. Tropical storm force winds extend out 35 miles from the center, and some minimal strengthening is expected in the next day or so as it moves over sea surface temperatures of up to 84 degrees.

But Fiona is also nearly surrounded by Saharan dust and is about to run into wind shear of 23 mph. Both will work against Fiona gaining too much strength and the storm is expected to max out with 50 mph winds.

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Saharan air layer
Saharan air layer is shown in oranges and yellows.


Tropical Storm Fiona forms, 6th named storm of 2016 season

Update 5 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Fiona has formed, making it the sixth named storm of the 2016 hurricane season.

Forecasters said Fiona’s maximum sustained winds are 40 mph and the storm is headed northwest at 16 mph.

The hurricane center had expected the tropical depression to make the leap to a full tropical storm earlier this morning. The latest satellite images confirmed a tighter inner-core has formed, an indication it has made the transition to a tropical storm.

Fiona is about 920 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands and is no threat to land at this time. It’s expected to top out as a strong tropical storm with 60 mph winds and weaken after about three days.


Previous story: Tropical depression six, which formed late Tuesday night, is expected to become Tropical Storm Fiona today.

The 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center continued to keep the system as a depression, but noted that its sustained maximum winds of 35 mph will slowly strengthen over the next 48 hours.

A depression becomes a named storm when its winds hit 39 mph.


The National Hurricane Center has also identified a second area to watch with a tropical wave that is expected to move off the coast of Africa on Saturday.

The center is giving this wave a 20 percent chance of development.

The potential Fiona has a central deep mass of thunderstorms and a newly formed band over the northern half of circulation, indicating better organization. The minimum central pressure is 1006 mb.

Hurricane center forecasters said satellite estimates already have the system reaching 40 mph, but the official forecast is keeping it a depression because of a decrease in storminess near the center of the system.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

The depression could weaken after the three-day mark as it hits drier air and sea surface temperatures marginally warm enough to sustain it.

See list of 2016 storm names here. 

This system is the first African easterly wave to form into a tropical depression this hurricane season. It’s right on time too as mid-August is when tropical waves start moving off the coast of Africa every few days with the possibility of becoming embryonic tropical cyclones.


Find everything you need to know about 2016 hurricane season here. 

Forecasters said this morning that models are differing on the strength and movement of the storm. While the European model has it weakening and moving more on a westerly course, the GFS model shows a deeper system moving more on a northerly path.

The official forecast has it heading northwest at 15 mph from its location about 775 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. There are no watches or warnings in effect.

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Easterly waves are staying just below the thick Saharan dust layer.
Easterly waves are staying just below the thick Saharan dust layer.