Caribbean system near Florida now at 70% chance to develop; Hurricane Epsilon's swells to affect East Coast
ORLANDO, Florida - A Caribbean low pressure system had a chance of becoming the next tropical depression, or the tropical storm escalated to a 70% chance to develop in the next two days on Friday afternoon.
The vast, low pressure area is becoming more organized and likely to become a tropical depression, according to the National Hurricane Center at 2:00 p.m. EDT update. The system is located west of Grand Cayman Island and generates showers and thunderstorms mainly east and south of the center. It will likely move to near western Cuba by Sunday.
If the system turns into a tropical storm, it will be the 27th storm of the year and it will be named with the Greek letter zeta - something that only happened in another year. the 2005 season.
In addition, meteorologists expect the storm to sweep the southeastern Gulf of Mexico as early as next week. Heavy rains are likely to cover parts of the Cayman Islands, Cuba, southern Florida and the Keys, and the northwestern Bahamas during the weekend.
The storm's highest chance of rain will be on the southern tip of the state's peninsula early Sunday morning, said Jayme King of WOFL-TV. The storm will continue northward all day but will stop just short of central Florida, King said.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Epsilon is still spinning as a Category 1 hurricane Friday morning and is expected to bring dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. east coast after hitting Bermuda, the Bahamas, and other islands over the weekend.
At 11 a.m., Epsilon was about 195 miles east-northeast of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour and moving north at 7 miles per hour. Epsilon's hurricane force winds extend up to 15 miles outward from its center, and its tropical gale winds reach up to 255 miles.
Heavy storms are expected to hit Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, the Leeward Islands, the east coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada in the next few days.
As the storm's maximum sustained wind speeds weakened this week, that trend is likely to end with the storm's eye gaining structure over warm water, where its force is expected to remain constant. The storm is expected to accelerate if it continues northeast through the weekend and early next week.
Further growth of the storm is unlikely, and Epsilon is expected to weaken from early next week.
Epsilon is the fourth major hurricane of the year and was the earliest 26th named storm ever recorded. It exceeded the previous record of November 22, 2005 by more than a month. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration database, the record is broken during a season of record-breaking early-forming storms.
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