Hurricane Jose remained well off the Carolina coast on Sunday as Tropical Storm Lee sputtered out into a depression, but for the second time this month eyes turned to a third storm simultaneously spinning in the tropics.
Maria became the 13th tropical storm to be named in the Atlantic when a disturbance north of French Guiana swirled into a depression and then a storm Saturday afternoon. Twenty-four hours later, forecasters were predicting Maria would become a major hurricane as she made a bee-line for Caribbean islands already ravaged by Hurricane Irma in a path that appeared at first to be similar to her predecessor.
“Maria is expected to strengthen and affect portions of the Leeward Islands as a hurricane early this week, bringing dangerous wind, storm surge and rainfall hazards,” according to a National Hurricane Center update late Sunday morning. “Hurricane and tropical storm warnings have been issued for portions of the Leeward Islands...”
The warnings were anticipated to extend “northward and westward” into Sunday night.
“Maria could also affect the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by midweek as a dangerous major hurricane,” the NHC warned.
But just where Maria will go from there remained a mystery on Sunday.
“Friday, we’ll know by then if it’s going to take a turn out in the Atlantic or if it affects the east coast,” said Stephen Keebler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C.
Wherever Maria goes, chances are we’ll feel it in the surf.
A high rip current risk was in effect Sunday for coastal Horry and Georgetown counties as Hurricane Jose churned well off of the Carolina coast as a category 1 storm lumbering towards the cooler, storm-weakening waters of New England.
“Swells generated by Jose are affecting Bermuda, the Bahamas and much of the U.S. east coast,” according to a separate NHC update Sunday morning. “These swells are likely to cause dangerous surf and rip current conditions for the next several days in these areas.”
Surf conditions are expected to start improving later Tuesday, Keebler said, providing a “brief respite” for the marine community before Maria starts making her splash in the surf midweek.
“The regular forecast looks pretty benign this week,” Keebler said, but “all eyes will continue to be on the tropics.”
At least one storm, however, seems to no longer pack a threat.
With Jose and Maria gaining strength over the weekend, Lee was the “runt of the litter,” Keebler said. The runt had weakened to a tropical depression Sunday morning and is forecast to dissipate in the coming days.
Three storms simultaneously spinning in the tropics is not necessarily a rare sight during peak hurricane season, Keebler said, especially for a season foreseen to be so busy.