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New Caribbean system near Florida developing; Hurricane Epsilon maintains strength

By Joe Mario Pedersen, David Harris, Tiffini Theisen and Garfield Hylton, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Weather News

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Caribbean low-pressure system will possibly become the next tropical depression or tropical storm as it escalates to a 100% chance of development, according to the National Hurricane Center's Saturday afternoon update.

The system is about 125 miles west-southwest of Grand Cayman Island and is producing showers and thunderstorms mainly east and south of the center.

"The system could move near western Cuba on Monday and move across the southern Gulf of Mexico or the northeastern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday," senior hurricane specialist Eric Blake said in the latest advisory.

If the system does become a tropical storm it will be the 27th named storm of the year and will receive the Greek letter Zeta as its name — something that's only happened in one other year: the 2005 season.

Moreover, meteorologists anticipate the storm to move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico as soon as early next week. Heavy rainfall is likely to cover portions of the Cayman Islands, Cuba, southern Florida, and the Keys, and the northwestern Bahamas through the weekend.

The highest rain chances of the storm will be at the southern tip of the peninsula in the state on early Sunday morning, said FOX 35's Jayme King. The storm will spread northward throughout the day but stop just shy of Central Florida, King said.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Epsilon was still spinning as a Category 1 hurricane Saturday morning and is expected to bring dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. East Coast after battering Bermuda, the Bahamas and other islands over the weekend.

At 11 a.m., Epsilon was about 465 miles north-northeast of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, moving northeast at 13 mph. Epsilon's hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from its center and its tropical-storm-force winds reach up to 405 miles.

 

Large swells kicked up by the storm are expected to affect Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, the Leeward Islands, the East Coast of the United States, and Atlantic Canada during the next few days.

While the storm's maximum sustained wind speeds weakened this week, that trend is expected to end with the storm's eye gaining structure over warm water where its power is expected to remain steady. The storm is projected to accelerate as it continues northeast into the weekend and early next week.

Further growth for the storm is unlikely, and Epsilon is predicted to weaken starting early next week.

"Only slow weakening is expected over the weekend. Epsilon is forecast to become a large and powerful post-tropical cyclone on Sunday," hurricane forecaster Andrew Latto said in the latest advisory.

Epsilon is the fourth major hurricane of the year and was the earliest 26th named storm on record, beating out the previous record of Nov. 22, 2005, by over a month. The record is broken during a season of record-breaking, early forming storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's database.

(Orlando Sentinel staff writers Lynnette Cantos and Paola Perez contributed to this report.)

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