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Tropical Storm Jose is a threat to the East Coast — whether it makes landfall or not

Jose is strengthening as it tracks northwest toward the East Coast. Even though landfall is uncertain, Jose's impacts will begin as early as Sept. 18. (Video: CIRA/RAMMB/NOAA)

Tropical Storm Jose, the former hurricane that sideswiped the Leeward Islands just after Hurricane Irma thrashed them, is still out in the Atlantic Ocean. With no strong winds to push it away from the continental United States, the East Coast remains at risk. Forecast models continue to predict that the storm will veer west over the weekend, placing it within potential striking distance of the coast by next week.

At this point we cannot say whether Jose will make landfall on the coast — let alone where or when. At the very least, it is likely to generate dangerous surf along the coast of the Mid-Atlantic by this weekend, spreading north into New England by early next week.

Satellite imagery suggests that the storm is intensifying. Hurricane Hunters will investigate the storm Friday afternoon to determine how much it has strengthened. Data from those flights will also be rolled into forecast models, which should help hone the track predictions.

On Friday, the tenacious storm was completing a loop between Bermuda and the Bahamas. It was 360 miles northeast of the Bahamas, creeping northwest at 9 mph. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm to turn north Saturday night. That would take it off its path toward the continental United States.

On Sunday and Monday, the storm should be passing between Bermuda and the North Carolina Outer Banks.

Some forecast models still suggest that the storm could threaten the East Coast next week. Impacts could be felt anywhere from the Carolinas to the Interstate 95 corridor.

Unfortunately, the upper-level winds over the United States are not strong nor coherent enough to push Jose east, which is why we have to keep watching it closely. In these situations, where steering winds are weak and unpredictable, the future path is extremely difficult to forecast.

The National Hurricane Center summarized its key messages in a forecast statement Friday:

1. Swells generated by Jose … will spread northward, reaching the Mid-Atlantic coast and the coast of southern New England during the next few days. These swells are likely to cause dangerous surf and rip current conditions.
2. Although the center of Jose is forecast to pass well east of the North Carolina coast early next week, tropical-storm-force winds are expected to extend well west of the center and could approach the North Carolina Outer Banks on Monday. Farther north along the U.S. East Coast, it is too soon to determine whether any other direct impacts from Jose will occur. Interests along the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina to New England should monitor the progress of Jose during the next several days.
The International Space Station captured Hurricane Jose on Sept. 8 as the storm passed through the Atlantic east of the Caribbean. (Video: NASA)