A pre-season storm northeast of the Bahamas early Wednesday has the potential to strengthen as it moves across warm waters heading into the Memorial Day weekend.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said the system is not expected to intensify over the next couple of days but could power up by Friday as it moves slowly to the west, northwest. They gave the storm a 50 percent chance of forming by Friday.
If a tropical storm forms, it would be a rare, although increasingly more frequent, pre-season opener with a week to go before the official start of hurricane season.
Last year, Tropical Storm Ana formed on May 9, making it the earliest tropical storm ever recorded to hit the U.S. The storm made landfall on South Carolina May 10. In 2012, Beryl struck Jacksonville Beach on May 28 as the strongest pre-season tropical storm with 65 mph winds.
Warm waters in the region could help strengthen the storm as it moves slowly over the Atlantic, Weather Underground Meteorologist Jeff Masters said in his blog Tuesday. Wind sheer may also weaken it, but models differ on how much remains, leaving the biggest threat heavy rain in north Florida, Georgia and possibly further north.
“The main concern for this weekend's low will be heavy rain over the northwest Bahamas and the Southeast U.S. coast, as the storm likely will not have enough time over water to become a strong tropical storm or hurricane,” Masters wrote.