Tracking the tropics: Eyes turn to Africa for storms that impact North Carolina

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August marks the start of increased tropical activity, and systems that develop off the coast of Africa have the most potential to affect North Carolina and surrounding states, according to WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner.

Forecasters are currently watching two weather systems that become tropical depressions, but there are no current indications that either will significantly impact North Carolina. One, off the coast of Africa, bears watching.

“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.

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

A system currently moving west off the coast of Africa has a 60 percent chance for development over next five days. It could become a depression as early as this weekend, but it would pose no threat at that time to the United States.

Another system currently bringing heavy rains and blustery winds to Puerto Rico has just 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, when the season officially began, 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 to start preparing now.