Hurricane Igor is heading toward Bermuda on a track that may threaten the islands this weekend, while Julia follows in its wake and a weather system in the Caribbean has a 90 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone.
Igor remains a “dangerous” Category 4 storm, the second- strongest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, after its winds dropped to 135 miles (215 kilometers) an hour from 150 mph yesterday, the National Hurricane Center said on its website at 10:45 a.m. East Coast time. The storm was 710 miles east of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands, heading west-northwest at 11 mph.
“Swells generated by Igor will begin affecting the Leeward Islands today and will reach Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands tonight and Wednesday,” the center said. “These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”
The current Atlantic season has produced 10 named storms, one more than all of last year, and is more than one month ahead of an average year, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the hurricane center. The average season usually produces its 10th storm by Oct. 19, he said.
The season is also ahead of normal for the intensity of the storms produced this season, with the fifth hurricane usually not arriving until Oct. 7, Feltgen said. Julia became the 2010 season’s fifth hurricane earlier today.
“We are definitely in an active season and we still have a lot of season to go,” Feltgen said. “Everything is turning out as advertised by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.”
The center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, predicts that 14 to 20 named storms, with winds of at least 39 mph, will form this year. The statistical peak of the season occurred on Sept. 10. An average hurricane season produces 11 named storms.
Both Igor and Julia are forecast to head into the northern Atlantic, while computer models show the system in the Caribbean will move west into Mexico and avoid the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 31 percent of U.S. oil output.
The center’s prediction map shows Igor weakening while heading almost directly for Bermuda early Sept. 19. Tropical Storm Risk, a London-based venture that grew out of a U.K. government-supported tsunami initiative, gives the islands a 10 percent chance of being struck by a hurricane bearing winds of at least 74 mph within five days.
“Exact impacts of Hurricane Igor at the end of the week are still difficult to gauge,” the Bermuda Weather Service said on its website today. “Much more detail on Igor will be covered in the next few days, as it likely becomes a potential threat to the island.”
Julia’s sustained winds increased to 85 mph from 75 mph earlier today, the center said. The hurricane was 355 miles west-northwest of Cape Verde moving west-northwest at 17 mph at 11 a.m. East Coast time.
In the Caribbean, the collection of showers and thunderstorms has a 90 percent chance of becoming a cyclone in the next two days, the center said in a 2 p.m. advisory. A cyclone is a rotating weather system that ranges in power from a depression to a hurricane.
The system has become better-organized, and an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft is scheduled to fly into it later today.
“If the current trend continues, a tropical depression could form later today,” the hurricane center said. “Interests in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and Belize should monitor the progress of this system.”
The weather system may cause heavy rain from Jamaica to Cuba and trigger life-threatening landslides throughout the western Caribbean.