Florence intensifies as steering currents complicate path

System expected to become Helene has 90 percent chance of development

By Bryan Norcross - Hurricane Specialist

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Our attention in South Florida shifts to Hurricane Florence and what will likely be Helene in the coming days. Both are still on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. 

But first: Gordon is weakening over the Deep South as heavy rain continues to move into Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Maintaining the same structure it had when it passed South Florida, Gordon's comma shape meant that the bad weather came ashore on the right side of the storm's center, well outside the cone when the storm made landfall Tuesday night.  Flooding rains will continue in parts of the South and spread north as far as Iowa and Illinois over the next few days.

Meanwhile, Florence has intensified significantly, and Wednesday morning is estimated to have top winds of 120 mph. For the next five days, the storm's track is fairly straightforward. Florence will move to a position roughly 1,350 miles east of central Florida. Then the steering currents are expected to become complicated. It appears there will be a "fork in the road."

Florence may turn north, harmlessly dying in the north Atlantic, or it might get trapped under a strong high-pressure system and be pushed back toward the East Coast of the U.S.  This raised the possibility of an impact somewhere from Florida to the Northeast.  

It is impossible to rule out an affect in South Florida, but it would appear much less likely than points north along the coast, if Florence takes a turn toward the west. The impacts would occur mid-to-late next week.

There is nothing to do at this point except to stay aware.

The system that is expected to become Tropical Storm Helene may take a more southerly path.  The National Hurricane Center gives this system a 90 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression or tropical storm. The upper-level winds over the Caribbean have been fairly hostile to tropical systems this season, so its long-term future is uncertain. But systems on southerly trajectories are always of most concern.  

Another disturbance will move off Africa after the soon-to-be Helene system. If it organizes, it will be called Isaac.

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