As the urgent relief efforts unfold in the Bahamas, a new tropical storm is threatening the Dorian-devastated regions of the island with the potential for heavy rains.
The National Hurricane Center on Thursday said it sees an 80 percent likelihood that a disorganized mass spinning in the Caribbean will congeal into Tropical Storm Humberto, the eighth named storm of the season, by the weekend.
The disturbance, which the center was calling “tropical storm nine” Thursday afternoon — one earlier storm was classified as a “depression” — was forecast “to bring tropical-storm-force winds and heavy rainfall to portions of the northwest Bahamas on Friday and Saturday.”
Those are the areas affected by Dorian.
The center added that the east coast of Florida could experience tropical storm winds and rain sometime during the weekend.
The island chain is about 320 miles long — roughly the distance from Philadelphia to Boston — and the areas hardest hit were in the northern end where Dorian made landfall.
Even if the rains aren’t extreme, said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., “just having wind and rain over an area that was so devastated is going to have psychological effects,” not only on the islanders but also on those involved in the relief efforts.
Yet another storm churning up the waters also would be likely to create problems for ships attempting to ferry in supplies, he added.
The future of what would be the eighth tropical storm of what has become an above-average Atlantic Basin season — the eighth on average forms after the fall equinox — is uncertain.
No one has yet mentioned Alabama as a target, but Kottlowski said the scenarios range from the storm’s meandering into the Gulf of Mexico, and traveling all the way to Texas, to its making a sharp turn northward along the U.S. East Coast.
“Right now the system is not well-organized,” Kottlowski said. On Thursday it was battling storm-shearing winds, but they were expected to slacken.
And a newly born Humberto would have access to a rich supply of fuel: “The oceanic heat content is very high across this area,” he said.
Yet another potential storm off the African west coast has a 40 percent chance of earning a name in the next five days, the hurricane center says.
Traditionally this is the peak season for tropical developments in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
The storm-stifling shear drops to annual low points while the sea-surface temperatures reach their annual peaks in the hurricane spawning grounds, said Philip Kotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University.
And this season likely will continue to be a busy one, says Kottlowski.
“Over the next couple of weeks things are favorable,” he said. “There’s plenty of time.”
Worth noting is that on this date 20 years ago, Hurricane Floyd became a “major” hurricane with peak winds of 115 mph.