(This story was originally published at 12:35 p.m.)
6 p.m. Update: Tropical storm watches have been issued from Delaware up through Cape Cod. In their 5 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center noted that Jose is “expected to cause direct impacts from Delaware northward to New England.”
Additionally, Maria has officially strengthened to hurricane status, prompting hurricane warnings to be posted on the islands of St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, with tropical storm warnings in place on Antigua and Barbuda. Maria’s current forecast track will bring the storm dangerously close to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands as a major hurricane by midweek, prompting officials to issue a hurricane watch for the islands.
Hurricane Jose continues to lurk off the East Coast and should be watched closely by coastal areas from the Mid-Atlantic to New England, where tropical-storm conditions are possible during the coming week. New model information out Sunday afternoon suggests coastal areas from the Jersey Shore to eastern Massachusetts, in particular, may face a serious threat from prolonged coastal flooding, in addition to heavy rain and tropical-storm-force winds starting as soon as Tuesday.
Meanwhile, less than two weeks after Irma devastated the region, the Caribbean islands are again under threat from a named storm, this time Hurricane Maria.
Hurricane Jose threatens prolonged tropical-storm conditions
Hurricane Jose strengthened slightly on Sunday and is currently located about 350 miles off the coast of North Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph. Jose’s intensity shouldn’t change much over the next 48 hours, as the storm slowly starts to move around the western edge of a large Bermuda High and toward the north.
Despite Jose’s predicted offshore track, tropical-storm-force winds will extend well beyond the center of circulation. According to the National Hurricane Center, there is about a 30 percent chance of tropical-storm-force winds along the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia coast as early as Monday afternoon or evening and more like a 40 to 50 percent chance of tropical-storm-force winds reaching the coast from New Jersey up through New York, Boston and Cape Cod as early as Monday evening or Tuesday morning.
The latest European model forecast on Sunday suggests the storm center could come very close to the Northeast coast on Wednesday and, while remaining offshore, will be slow to depart. If it is correct, it could bring an extended period of coastal flooding from the Jersey Shore to eastern New England, including around Long Island and New York City.
In addition to the possibility of significant coastal flooding, the storm could bring tropical-storm force winds and gusts to hurricane force, along with very heavy rain.
Small shifts in the storm track are possible and will have important consequences on how hard coastal areas are hit.The NHC notes in its key messages that “any deviation to the left of the NHC forecast track would increase the likelihood and magnitude of those impacts. Interests along the U.S. east coast from Virginia to New England should monitor the progress of Jose through the next several days.”
Hurricane Maria targeting Caribbean
Hurricane Maria, with peak winds of 75 mph, was located about 400 miles east of the Lesser Antilles on Sunday night, moving quickly toward the northwest at 15 mph.
Fueled by warm ocean water and low wind shear, Maria officially reached hurricane strength on Sunday evening. Tropical storm and hurricane warnings extend from Barbados to Antigua as Maria should begin to affect the outer islands as early as tonight.
Maria will continue to intensify over the next few days, probably reaching major hurricane status (Category 3 or greater) on Wednesday. By that point, the storm will be on the doorstep of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. At Maria’s current forecast intensity and path through the Virgin Islands, it would mark the first time that two major hurricanes have passed so close to the island chain in the same season.
Potential U.S. impacts from Maria
As The Washington Post’s Dan Stillman noted Saturday, things become a little strange in the forecast period beyond Wednesday. Both the European and American models have indicated that some interaction between Jose and Maria will occur, affecting the path of both storms. It should be noted that as of now, the NHC’s official forecast has Jose making a sharp turn toward the east and out to sea by Friday.
After passing through the Caribbean islands, Maria is expected to continue on a general track toward the northwest, which could put the storm in a threatening position for the U.S. East Coast by next weekend.
However, the large spread in forecast tracks seen above indicates low confidence beyond five days.
Jose and Maria: To dance or not to dance?
The dance routine between Jose and Maria shown in recent model runs is known as the Fujiwara effect, explained in greater detail a few weeks ago by our newest Capital Weather Gang contributor, Matthew Cappucci. It’s a rare phenomenon, especially in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also an unlikely scenario, despite the recent model trends.
At issue is the placement and scope of two upper-level areas of high pressure by next weekend (as shown below). High pressure over the central Atlantic that trapped Jose last week will begin to weaken over the next few days, before restrengthening later. Meanwhile, another area of high pressure is expected to build over Ontario by next weekend. For Jose and Maria to interact and affect each other’s path, that Ontario high pressure would have to build over the top of Jose, to keep Jose from escaping out to sea. While that could happen, uncertainty remains high at this time.
In the meantime, Maria’s immediate threat to the Caribbean is very real and very dangerous, while Jose still bears watching for some impacts along the coast from Virginia to New England.
Dan Stillman contributed to this post.