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  • Writer's pictureBryan Norcross

Odette is moving away from the East Coast while the Atlantic disturbance is organizing

Tropical Storm Odette finally formed off the Mid-Atlantic coast yesterday. From the beginning, it's been shaped like a comma. The bad weather is shifted to the right side of the circulation due to strong upper-level winds blowing across it from west to east.

Odette is forecast to intensify slightly as a tropical system today while it's still over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. When it heads out to sea tomorrow, a dip in the jet stream will quickly absorb it, however, and turn it into a strong winter-type storm in the North Atlantic.

For only the fourth time since the satellite era began in the 60s, the 15th tropical storm has formed by this point in the season. We continue on a blistering pace in terms of named storms.

Odette's main effect on the East Coast will be extra-strong surf today in the Northeast and New England. Odette will track south of Atlantic Canada tonight and tomorrow while it's growing in size as a non-tropical storm, so they will feel the outer effects of the system.

Tropical Disturbance #2 is on the cusp of developing into a tropical depression or tropical storm. If it obtains winds of 40 mph or more, it will be named Peter. It seems to be moving away from the dry and dusty air covering much of the eastern Atlantic, and the upper-level winds are becoming slightly more conducive for development.

It should be in the general vicinity of the northeastern Caribbean islands Monday and Tuesday. The atmospheric pattern is not forecast to support dramatic intensification, so the system isn't expected to be terribly strong when it's closest to the islands. But everybody there needs to stay informed.

As always, forecasts for weak or developing systems are subject to higher errors than those for a well-organized storm.

About the time the disturbance gets to the islands, the upper-level winds are forecast to shift. The new regime should be hostile to rapid development and could significantly weaken the system after it passes the islands. Most computer model forecasts turn the disturbance to the north early in the week due to a change in the steering pattern.

Because we don't know how strong the system will become, and the steering is somewhat dependent on the system's strength, the exact future track is a bit uncertain. But a turn to the north when the disturbance is north of Puerto Rico, plus or minus, seems most likely. Still, we'll watch it closely since it's not too far from our doorstep.

Tropical Disturbance #3 is also showing signs of developing. The National Hurricane Center is giving it a decent chance to become at least a tropical depression. It is forecast to turn north fairly soon and will only be a potential threat to the Cabo Verde Islands off the coast of Africa.

Ninety-five years ago this morning, the Great Miami Hurricane made landfall near today's Palmetto Bay in south Miami-Dade, about 12 miles south of downtown Miami. The modern estimate is that the top winds were 145 mph.

The storm was giant. The eye covered all of Miami and the southern half of Miami Beach. Most of the buildings in Dade and Broward County had damage and many were destroyed.

It would be very different if the same storm hit today. We have lots of strong buildings that would survive and be functional after the storm. On the other hand, we have tens of thousands of homes and businesses that are not up to modern standards, and tens of thousands more that would be inundated in the massive storm surge. Not to mention the critical infrastructure that would be damaged or destroyed.

Only about 150,000 people lived in Dade and Broward in total in 1926. We're now approaching 5 million. When the incredible hurricane of 1926 hit, it was said to have surpassed the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire as a calamity. A repeat of the Great Miami Hurricane today would be a catastrophe of an entirely different scale.

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