Tracking the tropics: In early hurricane season, eyes turn to Africa

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August marks the first official month of hurricane season, and according to WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner, North Carolina is watching Africa.

According to Gardner, in early August, it’s the systems that start developing off the coast of Africa that have the most potential to affect North Carolina and its surrounding states.

“Those tend to stick closer to the east coast and have a bigger affect on us here in August,” Gardner explained.

Hurricane season peaks in late August and continues through mid-September.

“After that, it falls off pretty quickly,” Gardner said.

According to Gardner, most tropical systems develop in the Gulf of Mexico, because ocean temperatures are warmer there, and, at 80 degrees or higher, give energy to the storms.

“They’re feeding off warm ocean temperatures — and that makes the fuel for storms,” Gardner said.

According to Gardner, the second most likely place for storms to develop is in the Caribbean, which usually propels storms up to the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters are currently watching two tropical systems, but neither should affect the United States or cause major problems elsewhere.

One, a system moving west from off the coast of Africa, has a 50 percent chance for development over next five days.

Another system currently bringing heavy rains and blustery winds to Puerto Rico has a 10 percent chance for development in the next five days. “It’s doubtful this will get organized enough to become a named storm,” Gardner said.

You can track the tropics anytime with WRAL’s interactive hurricane tracker.

In June, NOAA and the National Hurricane Center predicted nine to 15 named storms for the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, with two to four of those predicted to be major hurricanes.

Check out some ways tostart preparing now.