Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:17 PM GMT on October 16, 2005
Tropical Depression 24 is slow to organize, in part due to some dry air on the northwest side that is inhibiting it. However, all the forecast guidance points to a very favorable environment for intensification starting Monday, and the dry air mixes out, shear decreases below 5 knots, and ocean temperatures beneath the storm remain near 29C.
All indications are that this will be Tropical Storm Wilma on Monday, and Hurricane Wilma by Wednesday. Intensificatiion into a major hurricane by late in the week is a distinct possibility.
Figure 1. Historical tracks of tropical depressions that have formed in the western Caribbean in October.
Steering currents are expected to remain weak the next two days, and the computer models are forecasting a slow movement to the west or west-southwest. After that, most of the models agree on a more northerly track towards Cuba as a trough of low pressure swinging across the U.S. exerts a pull on the system three days from now. A second trough of low pressure five days from now will create an additional pull, that should accelerate the storm quickly to the north or northeast. This is a typical track for October systems forming in the western Caribbean, as we can see from the historical track map shown in Figure 1. It is looking increasingly unlikely that this storm will get "stuck" in the Caribbean and drift southwest towards Honduras like Category 5 Hurricane Mitch did in October 1998.
Western Cuba, Mexico's Yucatan, and the west coast of Florida and Florida Keys are at greatest risk. It currently appears that Gulf Coast residents of Louisiana and Texas have little chance of being hit by this storm.
Elsewhere in the tropics, nothing else is happening. I'll be back with a update this evening around 9 pm.
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