A fast-moving tropical wave continued to pick up steam overnight and could become a depression or Tropical Storm Matthew as soon as Tuesday, hurricane forecasters said.
At 8 a.m. Tuesday, the system was located about 475 miles east, southeast of Barbados. The system’s circulation had not yet closed, but it continued to head into a favorable environment. The storm was headed west-northwestward at 20 mph, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.
Mild wind shear and very warm ocean water — temperatures hovered around 85 degrees — are helping the brisk-paced storm pick up steam. A moist atmosphere will also likely help the system strengthen. Forecasters are giving the wave a 90 percent chance of becoming the Atlantic’s next storm over the next two days, a rapid intensification that would give flood-prone countries including Haiti little time to prepare.
Computer models remain divided on the future path of the storm, with some turning it north as it moves into the Caribbean Sea and crossing Hispaniola as a more powerful storm. Others point the storm west, where drier air could hamper its intensity.
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A hurricane hunter plane is scheduled to investigate the storm Tuesday afternoon.
If the system becomes a named storm, it would be the 13th this year as the season approaches a month that has historically produced some of the fiercest storms.
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich