Tropics fire back up as Melissa forms

Subtropical Storm Melissa forms over Central Atlantic

By Trent Aric - Meteorologist
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MIAMI - Early Monday, Subtropical Storm Melissa formed in the central Atlantic well to the east-southeast of Bermuda. At 7 a.m. Tuesday, winds were about 60 mph with higher gusts and the movement was north about 9 mph. The storm will continue on a northward path over the next 5 days, well away from the U.S. Melissa was over 1600 miles to the east of south Florida.

"This is the type of storm we like -- one that is out over the middle of the Atlantic not forecast to affect land," said Local 10's hurricane specialist Max Mayfield.

This late-season storm is the 13th named storm. Of those 13 storms, only two have become hurricanes and none have become a major hurricane, which is a category 3 or higher.

Hurricane season officially starts on June 1st and ends on November 30th for the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. 

The peak of the season is from mid-August to late October with the highest amount of activity in early to mid September.

Ninety-seven percent of tropical activity happens between June 1st and November 30th.  However, there is nothing "magical" about these dates. Hurricanes have formed well outside of these six months, primarily in May or December.

Looking back in history, the "earliest" hurricane to strike the United States was Alma which struck the lower Florida Keys and then made final landfall in northwest Florida on June 9, 1966. The "latest" hurricane to strike the U. S. was late on November 30, 1925 near Tampa, Florida.

You may be asking what is a "Subtropical Storm".  A subtropical cyclone is simply a hybrid system that has characteristics of both a tropical cyclone and a mid-latitude, or what we call an extratropical cyclone.  In comparison to tropical cyclones, these systems have a relatively broad zone of strong winds that is located farther from the center, often 100 miles or more away. Also, the wind field and distribution of thunderstorms are typically not as symmetric in a subtropical cyclone.

Sometimes, these subtropical systems can transform into true tropical cyclones.  This happened, for example, in 1994 with Hurricane Florence. That storm began as a subtropical cyclone before becoming fully tropical.  And there has been at least one time where a tropical cyclone has transformed into a subtropical storm.  Interesting note…it wasn't until 2002 that subtropical cyclones were given names from the tropical cyclone list.

Bottom line in all this, it is important to understand that the impacts from subtropical and tropical cyclones can be the same.  Preparation and planning should be no different when dealing with a subtropical cyclone.  You can download your hurricane survival guide by clicking here.

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