October 12, 2012

Tropical Storm Rafael May Develop This Weekend

AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center meteorologists are monitoring a large area of showers and thunderstorms entering the northeast Caribbean this weekend. This is the same feature that cruised the Central Atlantic much of this past week as a tropical wave. While Patty, centered east of the Bahamas Friday, will be on the way out soon due to disruptive high-level winds, a feature near the Lesser Antilles may not stop at a tropical depression or storm. According to Tropical Weather Expert Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski, "Wind shear was limiting the development of the system during the second half of this week, but that may gradually change over the weekend into early next week."

Wind shear is essentially strong, unidirectional winds high in the atmosphere that disrupt the vertical structure of a tropical system. In the tropics, these winds can totally prevent a system from developing, or bring the demise of a well-developed system. "The low level swirl was separated from the showers and thunderstorms Friday afternoon, but there could be a new center forming anywhere in the large disturbance," Kottlowski said. The feature will drift toward the north-northwest through the weekend and will bring drenching showers, locally gusty thunderstorms and rough seas over the Leewards and Virgin Islands, to perhaps as far west as Puerto Rico.

While much of this area needs rain, too much may fall too quickly leading to localized flash flooding. "Wind shear may weaken enough to allow the system to not only become Tropical Depression 17, but perhaps Tropical Storm Rafael over the weekend," Kottlowski stated. People over Leewards, Virgin Island and Puerto Rico should be prepared for possible tropical storm conditions later Saturday into Monday as a result. Steering winds next week could guide the system close to Bermuda during the middle of next week "There is a chance the system could become the Atlantic's ninth hurricane of the 2012 season, prior to reaching the waters of Bermuda and encountering increasing wind shear all over again," Kottlowski added.
By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist – AccuWeather.com

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