Emily likely to become hurricane

1st July since at least 1851 to produce 5 named storms

July 13, 2005|By Ken Kaye | Ken Kaye,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Tropical Storm Emily likely will spin into a hurricane by today and continue molding this unprecedented season into a remarkable stretch of hurricane history.

Emily is the fifth named storm to form in July, the first time that has happened since the United States began keeping storm records in 1851. Emily could also become the second major hurricane to develop this month, after Dennis, which struck near Pensacola on Sunday.

Late yesterday, Emily was in the Atlantic, 350 miles southeast of Barbados, churning west at 20 mph with sustained winds of 50 mph.

The long-range forecast takes the system south of the Dominican Republic on Friday, near Jamaica on Saturday and south of western Cuba on Sunday as a Category 3 system, packing 115 mph winds.

High pressure north of Emily might keep the system's path south of Florida, said James Franklin, hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County. But he said it's too early to say for sure.

Why is this season so active so early?

Primarily, the atmosphere is abnormally calm with little wind shear to potentially break storms apart, said Dave Roberts, a Navy meteorologist assigned to the hurricane center.

In addition, the Atlantic is significantly warmer than normal because of a natural cycle of warm water shifting to the tropical region, where hurricanes are spawned and nurtured. Scientists say that shift has resulted in an era of increased storm intensity that could last another 10 to 30 years.

Another factor: tropical waves, or blobs of low pressure that seed hurricanes, are very robust as they come off the coast of Africa, said Chris Landsea, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane research division.

"There's a lot of rotation to them, a lot of warm moisture being sucked in," he said.

That both Dennis and Emily formed at low latitudes means "conditions already are conducive for hurricanes to form. That tells us it's going to stay busy," Landsea said.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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