Tropical Storm Beryl, a compact, fast-moving system, continued to intensify Thursday and could become a hurricane in the coming days. But it is not expected to threaten land.
At 5 p.m., National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm, located less than 1,300 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, had sustained winds of 50 mph. The storm is forecast to become a hurricane by Friday or Saturday, but should get shredded by strong wind shear before it reaches the islands, forecasters said.
The storm is moving west at about 16 mph and is forecast to stay east of the islands until Sunday. Storm force winds extend just 35 miles from Beryl's center.
Because Beryl is so small, forecasters were less certain about just how much the storm could strengthen.
"Beryl has been a bit of a surprise today," forecasters noted, explaining that small storms can be tricky and change rapidly.
Over the next 36 hours, wind shear that could prevent intensification is expected to remain low. That could allow the compact storm to quickly spin into a more fierce system. But as it speeds up on a westward track, it's expected to encounter upper winds that knock it back down, forecasters said.
The storm is one of two that forecasters have been watching over the last week. A second system a few hundred miles southwest of Bermuda remained disorganized Thursday morning, but forecasters said it could strengthen as it moves east, away from the U.S. coast.
In May, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters predicted that the Atlantic would produce more storms than normal during the coming season. However, in recent weeks, warming waters in the Pacific have hinted that an El Niño weather pattern may form, which would produce upper atmospheric winds that could help tamp down the ferocity of storms in the Atlantic.
Earlier this week, forecasters said an El Niño has a 50 percent chance of forming during the fall after September. The Atlantic season typically peaks between late August and September, however late season storms are not uncommon. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida's west coast in late October.