Lifestyle - October 25, 2017

When hurricanes hit: The biggest threat is right now

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t this time of year, when a hurricanes forms, it’s more likely to hit us.

That’s because October storms are more likely to form in the western Caribbean Sea, where they tend to travel north over or near western Cuba and then across southern Florida.

That’s what Hurricane Wilma did in 2005 — exactly 12 years ago Tuesday.

And now, forecasters are saying there’s a 50 percent chance a smattering of rainstorms in the western Caribbean will become at least a tropical depression in the next five days.

“We’re in a wait and see mode,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

The good news, at least so far, is that this potential system is not expected to become a hurricane.

If it becomes a named storm, it would be Phillipe.

“I hate to say there’s no chance but there’s nothing we see that would indicate it will be a hurricane,” said Bryan Norcross, senior hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel.

“But I always say that with tropical systems, they surprise us as much as they don’t.”

Whatever this potential system becomes, if anything, it’s expected to bring rain to South Florida from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night, the National Weather Service’s Miami-South Florida forecast office said.

Feltgen said part of the challenge with storms that form in the western Caribbean in autumn is that there’s a much shorter lead time, which means not as much time to get the warning out.

That’s in contrast to August and September, when storms are more likely to form off the coast of Africa — where they take a significantly longer time to reach the U.S.

According to the National Hurricane Center, 10 major hurricanes [Category 3 or higher] hit Florida in October between 1851 and 2015.

That’s second only to the month of September, with its 19 major hurricane landfalls in Florida over that same time period. August ranked third, with six; but no major hurricanes struck in November.

Hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30, but the risk to South Florida in November tends to drop significantly as cool, dry air from the north hinders the development of tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes.

If a storm does form in November, it’s most likely to do so in the Caribbean.

But atmospheric conditions then are more likely to steer these storms into the Atlantic, away from Florida.

Between 1851 and 2015, only two hurricanes have hit Florida in November.

On Nov. 4, 1935, the Yankee hurricane, which got its nickname because it came from the north, made landfall just north of Miami Beach as a Category 1 hurricane, with five deaths reported in South Florida.

On Nov. 21, 1985, Category 2 Hurricane Kate made landfall at Mexico Beach in the Florida Panhandle, near Panama City Beach.

There were five reported deaths in the U.S., four of them in Florida.

More likely, but still relatively rare, are tropical storms and depressions hitting in November.

Records show there have been six tropical storms to hit Florida in November between 1851 and 2015.

These include Mitch in 1998, Gordon in 1994, Keith in 1988, and three unnamed storms 1946, 1904, and 1861.

But hurricane forecasters also warn that hurricanes can and do form anywhere at any point during the season — and even outside of the season. or Twitter @BrettClarkson_

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