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Virgin Islands And Puerto Rico On The Lookout For Tropical Storm Matthew

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MIAMI — A tropical disturbance, Invest 97L, between Africa and the Windward Islands, could develop into the next Atlantic named storm later in the week, and may pose a threat into next week in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

For now, this tropical wave is located roughly halfway between the Lesser Antilles and Africa. It’s a tropical “wave” because winds at the surface do not exhibit a closed low-pressure circulation, but rather shift from northeasterly ahead of the wave to southeasterly behind the wave.

The National Hurricane Center has tentatively scheduled the first Hurricane Hunter mission into Invest 97L for Tuesday afternoon.

First Stop: Windward Islands

Steered by the subtropical ridge of high pressure known as the Bermuda-Azores high, Invest 97L will arrive in the Windward Islands, bringing showers, some locally heavy rain, and gusty winds by Wednesday, according to our latest forecast.

The National Hurricane Center has given this system a high chance for formation into a tropical depression over the next two to five-day period as it nears the Lesser Antilles into the Caribbean. The next named storm in the Atlantic would be Matthew.

It should be noted this disturbance is starting out at a fairly low latitude, south of 10 degrees. Therefore, showers and gusty winds are expected in such locations as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, perhaps even coastal Venezuela later this week.

Caribbean Questions

By Thursday, the system, either still a tropical wave, depression, or Tropical Storm Matthew, will move into the eastern Caribbean Sea.

Again, given the potential far southern track, there could be rain and gusty winds in the typically drier “ABC Islands” – Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao – Thursday.

Beyond that, uncertainty is high on this system’s future.

There are currently west to northwest winds aloft over the Caribbean Sea, providing some wind shear which is typically hostile to the development and intensification of tropical cyclones.

However, that wind shear is not much stronger than average for late September. Assuming the shear diminishes, the “future Matthew” may be able to intensify in the Caribbean Sea.

The reason that this tropical system has generated so much interest is that some model guidance has been indicating for several days that an intensifying tropical cyclone would be in the Caribbean Sea.

However, as The Weather Channel hurricane expert, Michael Lowry eloquently put it in a recent blog post:

“The science tells us there’s no skill in seven-to-ten day forecasts of tropical systems that haven’t formed (like invests).”

Therefore, it’s much too early to tell what other areas of the Caribbean Sea may be impacted by this system and whether any mainland U.S. locations will eventually be threatened.

Now is a good time to make sure you’re prepared, before the storm. Are you #HurricaneStrong?

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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