Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Mountains and hurricanes are not a good match, and Tropical Storm Chantal appears to be on a collision course with the high country of Hispaniola.
But it is increasingly clear that if some semblance of a tropical storm survives the trek over the Dominican Republic and Haiti in the next few days, Chantal could be a big problem for the Carolinas.
The system's threat isn't high winds and storm surge. Rather, it could bring heavy rain into an area that doesn't need it.
Early Tuesday afternoon, Chantal's center was about 325 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was racing to the west-northwest at 29 mph -- the kind of speed that often tears apart a tropical system. Chantal, which had top sustained winds of 65 mph Tuesday afternoon, is expected to hold its own until it reaches Hispaniola later Wednesday.
A hurricane watch is in effect for the Dominican Republic, and tropical storm warnings are posted for Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the north coast of Haiti. Tropical storm watches are in effect all the way into the Bahamas.
National Hurricane Center specialists and other meteorologists who follow tropical systems aren't sure what sort of storm will emerge from Hispaniola. The official forecast from the Hurricane Center is for a system with 40 to 45 mph winds to come off the coast.
There will be one other big change. Chantal will slow down -- a lot. The high pressure system that is steering the storm now is expected to weaken, allowing Chantal to curve northwestward toward the Bahamas and the Southeast coast.
In fact, by the weekend, Chantal will be crawling. It is expected to be in the southeast Bahamas on Friday morning and move only to the northwest Bahamas by Sunday morning.
The computer models are coming to the conclusion that Chantal will move toward the South Carolina coast, on a northwest track.
A lot of things can happen between now and then ("then" being later Monday or Tuesday), but that track would bring heavy rain into South Carolina and either Georgia or western North Carolina.
By the way ... Another low pressure circulation is emerging from Africa into the eastern Atlantic. Some computer models predict that system will quickly take on tropical characteristics and move westward. Chantal and the new system are Cape Verde storms, forming in the eastern Atlantic.
It's pretty early in the season for Cape Verde storms, but that might be a sign of what's ahead this hurricane season.
Posted by Steve Lyttle at 3:03 PM