The 15th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Ophelia has gained momentum far out in the tropical Atlantic. On its projected path, the storm should head over or near the Leeward Islands over the weekend and be well north of Puerto Rico by early next week.
Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami have tracked Ophelia since Friday afternoon when it emerged as a low pressure system in association with a tropical wave several hundred miles to the southeast of the Cape Verde Islands.
The storm became much better organized on Monday and Tuesday.
The low over the Tropical Atlantic has finally coalesced about a single circulation center and has enough organized deep convection to be considered a tropical cyclone, Michael Brennan, NHC senior hurricane specialist, said on Tuesday evening.
The 5 p.m. EDT alert from the National Hurricane Center in Miami shows Ophelia moving west at 16 mph. Maximum sustained winds grew to 60 mph with tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 230 miles from the storm center.
The storm has grown considerably in size since the 5 a.m. EDT alert on Wednesday.
Located roughly 1165 miles east of the Leeward Islands, Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to continue moving west through Thursday with a gradual turn toward the west-northwest on Friday.
Little change in strength is expected in the next 48 hours and there are no coastal watches or warnings in effect at this time.
On Ophelia's projected path, the storm should curve above the northern Leeward Islands and be well north of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by Monday afternoon. It is still too soon to say what, if any, impact the storm will have on the United States' East Coast.
Forecasters do not think that Ophelia will become a hurricane anytime soon. The storm is expected to encounter an upper-level wind pattern in the coming days that is unfavorable for significant strengthening. According to NHC predictions, the system will remain a tropical storm though Monday.
Also in the Atlantic, a small area of low pressure over the northern Leeward Islands produced disorganized showers and thunderstorms early Wednesday, but dissipated by midday.
The 15th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Ophelia comes not long after Tropical Storm Nate made landfall in Mexico earlier in the month, killing four people.
The revised tropical outlook predicts 14 to 19 named storms in 2011. Seven to ten are expected to become hurricanes while three to five are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). With 15 named storms already - and over two months left in the hurricane season - it is turning out to be the atypically busy year that forecasters had predicted