Tropical Storm Emily forms in the Caribbean, heads for the Dominican Republic

August 2nd, 2011 - 3:25 pm ICT by BNO News  

MIAMI (BNO NEWS) — Tropical Storm Emily formed in the Caribbean Sea on early Monday evening, forecasters said, prompting tropical storm warnings for numerous islands. The storm is expected to slowly strengthen.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) have been following the weather system since Thursday evening when it emerged as a tropical wave between Africa and the Lesser Antilles. It quickly became better organized on Saturday and Sunday, but then suddenly failed to strengthen into a tropical storm until Monday evening.

“Data from the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft investigating the system over the Lesser Antilles show that a well-defined circulation center has finally formed near the island of Dominica, marking the formation of Tropical Storm Emily,” said NHC senior hurricane specialist Michael Brennan.

As of late Monday evening, the center of Emily is located about 105 miles (170 kilometers) west of Dominica, an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. It is moving towards the west at a speed near 17 miles (28 kilometers) per hour.

Maximum sustained winds of Emily are near 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour, with higher gusts, according to forecasters. “As evidenced by the amount of time it took this system to consolidate around a single center, the environment is only marginally favorable for strengthening in the short term,” Brennan said.

But even though only some slow strengthening is forecast during the next few days, Emily could pose a serious threat to Haiti and the Dominican Republic where it is expected to make landfall on Wednesday. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and is still recovering from last year’s devastating earthquake.

As a result, tropical storm warnings are in effect for Dominica, Guadeloupe, Desirade, Les Saintes, Marie Galante, Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, and the Dominican Republic. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Antigua, and Haiti.

“Tropical storm conditions are occurring or imminent in the warning area in the Leeward Islands,” Brennan said. “Tropical storm conditions are expected in Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques by Tuesday, and in the Dominican Republic by Tuesday night. Tropical storm conditions are possible in the watch area in the Leeward Islands tonight, in the U.S. Virgin Islands by early Tuesday, and in Haiti by Wednesday.”

In addition to strong winds, Emily is also expected to produce total rain accumulations of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) in the northern Windward Islands and Leeward Islands. Total rain accumulations of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) are expected in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic with isolated maximum amounts of 10 inches (25 centimeters) possible. “These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides in areas of mountainous terrain,” Brennan warned.

In addition, Emily’s storm surge is expected to raise water levels by 1 to 2 feet (0.3 to 0.6 meter) above normal tide levels in the tropical storm warning area. “Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves,” Brennan added.

After passing over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Emily is forecast to head towards the Bahamas which should allow it to strengthen as it remains over water. The NHC said there is a chance that Emily could approach the eastern coast of Florida as a hurricane on Saturday, although weather models are still conflicting on how long the storm will last and which direction it will take later this week.

Emily is the fifth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, following Tropical Storm Don which made landfall on the south Texas coast on late Friday evening, causing no casualties and no significant damage.

According to figures released in May, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is expecting an above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic this year. The outlook calls for 12 to 18 named storms, with six to ten becoming hurricanes and three to six 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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