Friday, August 14, 2009

Atlantic Weather System May Become Hurricane

Atlantic Weather System May Become Hurricane, Planalytics Says (Bloomberg News)
By Brian K. Sullivan
Bloomberg News, August 14, 2009

Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) -- A system of thunderstorms in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa may develop into a hurricane by early next week and pose a "formidable threat" to the U.S., according to forecasting company Planalytics Inc.

The system, centered about 250 miles (402 kilometers) south of the Cape Verde islands, is moving west and has a greater than 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours, the National Hurricane Center said.

"It remains likely this storm system will represent a formidable threat to U.S. interests next week up the Atlantic seaboard" and in the Gulf of Mexico, said Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics in Wayne, Pennsylvania, in an e-mail. "It is premature to predict at this point in time who is at most risk."

The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, has yet to produce a named storm this year. Conditions in the ocean are now conducive to storm formation, said another forecaster.

A tropical depression currently moving west in the Atlantic ahead of the storms off Africa will increase the chances of a hurricane occurring next week, said Mike Pigott, a meteorologist with forecaster in State College, Pennsylvania.

The depression has weakened because it has encountered dry air, and not enough of the warmer, moister air that causes the storms to strengthen, Pigott said. By sweeping that drier air away, the depression will open a path for the system off the African coast to intensify, he said.
'Major Hurricane'

"The second one, which is much larger, that is the one that could become a major hurricane, Category 3 or higher, early next week," Pigott said.

A storm reaches Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale when its winds are 111 miles (178 kilometers) per hour or more. Hurricane Ike, which killed 54 people and caused about $18 billion in damage, had winds of about 110 mph when it hit the Texas coast near Galveston last year.

Atlantic storms can shut down oil and gas rigs and refineries in the Gulf of Mexico and damage citrus crops in Florida, which is the world's second-largest orange producer behind Brazil. The Gulf is home to about 26 percent of all U.S. oil production.

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