Biggest hurricane threat is right now

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BY BRETT CLARKSON
SUN SENTINEL / TNS

At this time of year, when a storm forms, it’s more likely to hit Florida.

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.

A storm brewing
That’s what Hurricane Wilma did in 2005 – 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.”

Less warning time
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.

End is near
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. 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.

But hurricane forecasters also warn that hurricanes can and do form anywhere at any point during the season – and even outside of the season.

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