Hurricane

Hurricane Florence weakens for now as faraway systems continue to build

Hurricane Florence continues to churn in the Atlantic

Hurricane Florence weakened slightly overnight but is expected to remain a dangerous hurricane while two systems off the African coast continue to become better organized.
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Hurricane Florence weakened slightly overnight but is expected to remain a dangerous hurricane while two systems off the African coast continue to become better organized.

Hurricane Florence weakened slightly on Thursday but was expected to power back into a major hurricane early next week while two more brewing systems rolled off the African coast.

Whether they would threaten the United States or Caribbean islands remained far from certain.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 p.m. advisory that Florence’s sustained winds had dropped to 80 mph as it headed northwest at 12 mph. The storm was located more than 1,000 miles east of Bermuda, and forecasters said it was too early to say what, if any, hazards it may bring to the U.S. coast.

Computer track models so far disagree on a future track, raising uncertainty about its path next week.

However, they still expect Florence to remain a dangerous hurricane and said it’s likely to regain intensity as it churns west.

As the season reaches its peak, two other systems off the African coast also continued to look more likely to become tropical depressions.

Just west of the Cape Verde islands, a long swath of low pressure lacked a defined eye but is expected to move west into more favorable conditions across the tropical Atlantic in the next few days and become better organized. The odds of a depression or storm forming in two days is 70 percent and 90 percent in five days, forecasters said.

Behind it, another wave is expected to move off the coast on Friday and could become a depression over the weekend or early next week. It has a 50 percent chance of forming in five days, forecasters said.

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The storms stacking up in the tropics come just as the season hits its historic high point when the tropical Atlantic becomes ripe for hurricanes.

Last year, both Hurricanes Irma and Maria formed in the region. While not every storm becomes a hurricane, NHC specialist Jack Beven said, forming so far away and so far south gives systems plenty of time to gain strength as they roll west.

“All other things being equal, if it forms at that lower latitude, it’s got greater chance of forming, with warmer waters and warm air,” he said.

Florence strengthens to Category 3 status, and it’s the first major hurricane of 2018.

Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich
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