MIAMI -- A tropical system off Central America is expected to become better organized as it heads across the Caribbean toward the U.S. coast, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Tuesday.
Over the next five days, forecasters say the system will encounter favorable conditions, including hurricane-fueling warm waters in the western Caribbean and light wind shear. A tropical wave rolling in from the east could also help the system gain power.
Forecasters designated the system an invest Tuesday morning and gave it a 50 percent chance of intensifying to a tropical depression or storm by the end of the week or early next week.
Late season storms that form in the western Caribbean have typically been among the most lethal. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch formed off the coast of South America and wound its way through Central America, with top winds reaching 180 mph -- a new record for an October storm. In 2005, Wilma broke the record when it formed off Honduras and struck the Yucatan before rolling crossing Florida. Sustained winds eventually reached 185 mph.
Already, the 2017 has outpaced early predictions for an above average season, with the last 10 storms becoming hurricanes, a pace not seen since the late 1800s. September also set a new record for the most accumulated hurricane energy in a month, breaking a record set in 2004.
In a blog post, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy also pointed out that October is the worst month for Florida, when hurricanes have hit the state more than during any other month. So far, the storm's future track remains uncertain, he said, with weak steering currents that could leave it lingering over the Central American coast. There's also a possibility a jet stream dips south and pulls it toward Cuba or Florida, he said.
For at least the next two days, hurricane center forecasters said the system is not expected to intensify much as it hovers near land.
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