KEY POINTS

  • Tropical Storm Gonzalo continued gaining strength, with winds averaging 65 mph as it moves west at around 14 mph
  • Barbados is the first notable landmass in the storm's path as it is forecast to hit the island by the weekend
  • A hurricane watch has been issued in Barbados as the current forecast has Gonzalo becoming 2020's first hurricane in the Atlantic by the weekend

Tropical Storm Gonzalo pushed west into the Caribbean on Thursday, gaining strength in the open Atlantic Ocean and could become the first Atlantic hurricane of 2020. A hurricane watch has been issued for Barbados due to the weekend forecast, as it is the first island in Gonzalo’s projected path.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, Gonzalo’s winds were averaging 65 mph as it moved west at 14 mph.

“There is an increasing risk of wind and rain impacts from Gonzalo in portions of the southern Windward Islands this weekend,” a National Hurricane Center advisory said. “Hurricane conditions are possible on Barbados where a hurricane watch has been issued. Interests in the southern Windward Islands should monitor the progress of Gonzalo and follow any advice given by officials.”

Despite the forecast, the National Hurricane Center said it was not clear how Gonzalo’s development could change during the weekend. Its current path has it set to make landfall along a swath of northern-most South America which could severely weaken the storm by Monday.

“This system is likely to encounter increasing wind shear and then perhaps resistance from the large landmass of South America late this week since it is a bit far south compared to other tropical systems that have developed over the years,” meteorologist Adam Douty told AccuWeather. Douty said this combination of factors could be enough to cause Gonzalo to break up after the weekend.

Another meteorologist cautioned Gonzalo could persist thanks to its size.

“The storm's rather small size may actually help the system dodge some of the effects from South America, provided it does not ram into the continent and stays south of a zone of dry air and dust farther to the north,” AccuWeather’s Rob Miller said.

A satellite image from September 2019 of Tropical Storm Dorian. US forecasters predict an 'above normal' 2020 Atlantic hurricane season A satellite image from September 2019 of Tropical Storm Dorian. US forecasters predict an 'above normal' 2020 Atlantic hurricane season Photo: NOAA/RAMMB / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS