SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - This hurricane season's next named tropical system could form in the Atlantic by this weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The disturbance in question is a tropical wave called Invest 99-L. On Wednesday afternoon, this tropical wave was located near Puerto Rico moving quickly to the west-northwest.
Hurricane Hunters have flown into 99-L and have actually found tropical storm-force winds of 58 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, they still do not think a tropical storm or depression has formed quite yet.
"There was no concrete evidence of a closed center of circulation," explained WLOX First Alert Meteorologist Wesley Williams on Wednesday. "This tropical wave has a lot of favorable conditions, like warm water, decent moisture, and generally weak wind shear working for it. However, the NHC is holding off on naming it Tropical Depression Eight or Tropical Storm Hermine until it closes off its circulation, which could happen at any point over the next few days."
Forecast models are in pretty good agreement that 99-L will continue westward and affect the Bahamas and parts of southern Florida around this weekend into early next week.
Past that, long range forecast models for this system have been all over the place. Some take it up the East Coast. Some take it into the Gulf as a non-major hurricane, affecting areas in Louisiana.
"Tropical forecast skill past five days is very limited," Williams said. "Looking at forecast models past five days out and getting all worked up isn't going to do anyone much good. Models change their forecasts every six hours and can vary quite wildly at times. What you want to look for is when the models start to agree and continue to keep on agreeing. That's when you can have a more confident forecast and that has not happened yet in the long range."
"What we know is that it is very likely that the system will impact the Bahamas and areas in Florida by this weekend as a named tropical system," continued Williams. "With the steering pattern setup, it appears less likely that the tropical system would take a north turn around Florida and then go up the East Coast. It appears more likely that the storm will reach Florida and then go poof over land, or reach Florida and then continue westward into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico."
"As we get closer, we'll know more. For now, there are too many question marks to consider this system as a direct threat to the central Gulf Coast region. I would certainly make sure that I have my hurricane plan in place just in case this becomes a threat to our area. For now it's still a wait and see. So, continue watching it with us as we learn more together."