Tropical depression forms in the western Caribbean Sea, heads for Honduras

August 19th, 2011 - 3:29 pm ICT by BNO News  

MIAMI (BNO NEWS) — Tropical Depression Eight formed in the western Caribbean Sea on late Thursday evening, forecasters said, prompting tropical storm watches for Honduras and Guatemala.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) have been following the weather system since Monday morning when it emerged as a tropical wave about 325 miles (523 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles. It slowly became better organized as it moved through the Caribbean.

“Satellite images during the last few hours before sunset indicated that the low-level circulation of the wave over the western Caribbean Sea was becoming better defined with low clouds moving within northwesterly flow offshore of the coast of northeastern Honduras,” said NHC warning coordination meteorologist Daniel Brown. “Microwave data from the past several hours confirm that the system has a low-level circulation.”

As of early Friday morning, the center of Tropical Depression Eight was located about 40 miles (60 kilometers) north-northeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios, which is a cape located on the Nicaragua-Honduras border. The storm is moving towards the west at a speed near 12 miles (19 kilometers) per hour.

Maximum sustained winds of Eight are near 35 miles (55 kilometers) per hour, with higher gusts. “The depression does not have much time to strengthen before the circulation interacts with the northern coast of Honduras,” Brown said. “Only modest strengthening is forecast, which is in good agreement with the model consensus.”

Official NHC models show Eight should become a tropical storm by Friday evening, but Brown said this might not happen. “Given how close the system is to land, it is also quite possible the depression may not strengthen at all and weaken over the higher terrain of Honduras,” he said.

Nonetheless, because a tropical storm remains a possibility, tropical storm watches have been issued for the coast of Honduras and Guatemala. The watch for Honduras includes the Bay islands.

“Tropical storm force winds are possible along the north coast of Honduras today and tonight and on the coast of Guatemala on Saturday,” Brown said. “The depression is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 centimeters) across Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize with possible isolated maximum amounts of 8 inches (20 centimeters).”

Eight is the eighth storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, following Tropical Storm Gert which formed east of Bermuda on Sunday and dissipated on Tuesday without affecting land. If Eight becomes a tropical storm it will be given the name Harvey.

According to figures released earlier this month, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is expecting an above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic this year. The outlook calls for 14 to 19 named storms, with seven to ten becoming hurricanes and three to five expected to become a major hurricane (category 3 or higher).

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes and two becoming major hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, with peak activity in September.

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