Tropical Storm Ophelia expected to become hurricane by Thursday

Tropical Storm Ophelia is forecast to become a hurricane late Wednesday or early Thursday, forecasters said, but is currently no threat to land. Image courtesy NOAA

By UPI Staff

Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to strengthen into a hurricane late Wednesday or early Thursday — and tie a record for the longest stretch of consecutive hurricanes in one season.

The storm is located in the central Atlantic Ocean about 785 miles west-southwest of the Azores, according to the 5 a.m. EDT update from the National Hurricane Center. It has maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and is traveling southeast at 6 mph, an increase in speed from Tuesday.

The NHC said Ophelia is “getting better organized over the far eastern Atlantic” and expected to become a hurricane by Thursday when it turns north and increases in wind speed. Forecasters said the overall convective structure of Ophelia “improved markedly” early Wedesday.

Ophelia would become the 10th consecutive storm to gain hurricane strength this year. If that happens, officials say it would tie a record set in the late 1880s.

With seven weeks left in the season, the amount of accumulated cyclone energy is 254 percent higher than the average, according to University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. The energy is the measure of the intensity and longevity of storms.

Harvey, which made landfall on the Texas coast on Aug. 25, became the first major hurricane to strike the U.S. coast since Wilma in 2005. At one time is was a Category 5. Since then, amount of hurricane energy has climbed steadily.

Last month, Irma became the most powerful hurricane on record in the Atlantic, outside the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico and hit several Caribbean Islands and Florida. Later in the month, Maria intensified into another Category 5 and devastated Puerto Rico after hitting other islands.

McNoldy said it’s been a strong season because of timing and luck.

Storms have avoided largely mountainous islands and have been boosted by warm sea temperatures and wind shear weak.

“It’s just a matter of having one of those waves at the right time at the right place,” he said.

And things are not expected to die down.

Florida has been hit by 28 October hurricanes since 1878, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach. Next was Louisiana with seven.

“If we make it through October, the odds quickly switch,” McNoldy said to the Miami Herald. “So hopefully we get a break.”

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