Islands blasted by Hurricane Irma last week may face another hurricane by Monday, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Saturday.
A system located about 755 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles is expected to become a tropical storm later today as it heads west at a quick 22 mph. Forecasters expect the storm — Maria is the next name up — to become a Category 1 hurricane over the next 48 to 72 hours.
Tropical storm watches have been issued for St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Barbados and St. Vincent.
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The system does not yet have an eye, making it hard to predict what track it will take, forecasters said. The current track moves it across the Leeward Islands in three days, then near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — which are also digging out from Hurricane Irma — in about five days.
Forecasters expect the system to gradually strengthen and warned that hurricane conditions and heavy rain could hit the Lesser Antilles early next week, then spread into Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
In his Saturday blog, Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters said the storm has the potential to blossom into another major hurricane by Tuesday or Wednesday “given how Hurricane Irma exploded into a major hurricane under similar conditions and in a similar location.”
Masters said the storm’s path could be influenced by Hurricane Jose, currently moving off the coast of New England. Models have the storm moving through the Lesser Antilles Tuesday morning and nearing the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Wednesday, he said.
After Thursday, the path may be determine by Jose’s location and whether it weakens a high pressure ridge steering the storm. If it does, the storm will head more to the northwest or north-northwest, he said. If not, the storm will likely keep heading to the west-northwest.
A fall trough moving across the U.S., he said, could also strengthen a ridge in the northeast, preventing the storm from moving out to sea.
In any case, Masters said it’s likely the storm could approach the U.S next week. The European model, which performed better tracking Irma, puts the storm closer to Florida.
Tropical Storm Lee has also formed farther east in the Atlantic, forecasters said. But the storm poses no threat to land and it’s likely to fizzle in five days.
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