Ophelia Grows to Tropical Depression, on Course Toward Bermuda

Tropical Depression Ophelia regenerated and may grow into a hurricane later this week on a track that takes it east of Bermuda by this weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Ophelia’s top winds are 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour and it is about 175 miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands moving west-northwest at 5 mph, according to a center advisory at 5 p.m. New York time. Its maximum winds need to strengthen to 39 mph to become a tropical storm and 74 mph to be called a hurricane.

Ophelia formed Sept. 20 about 1,585 miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands and degenerated into what is called a remnant low on Sept. 25. The hurricane center continued to track the low pressure system, which reorganized this afternoon.

“It is going to threaten Bermuda, but other than that I don’t think anyone has to worry about it,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground Inc. in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “I thought we had this storm killed but it is like it said ‘I am going to stay right here and annoy you guys.’”

Sixteen storms have formed in the Atlantic, making this the seventh-most active year on record. Most of them have been weak systems, Masters said. In 2005, 28 storms formed, the most ever, including Hurricane Katrina, which struck near New Orleans, killing 1,836 people.

Philippe and Hilary

Farther to the east, Tropical Storm Philippe was about 795 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands with top winds of 40 mph, according to the hurricane center. The story is moving west-northwest at 7 mph deeper into the mid-Atlantic.

Masters said seasonal changes are going to start affecting the remaining Atlantic season, which ends on Nov. 30. The western Gulf of Mexico is probably getting to the point where it doesn’t need to worry about hurricanes for the rest of the season, he said.

“Texas is pretty much done,” Masters said.

The Gulf is home to 27 percent of U.S. oil output and 6.5 percent of natural gas production.

In addition, the tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa begin to lose their potential to become storms by the second week of October, he said. The focal point of the hurricane season now shifts into the Caribbean and storms that form tend to take a more northerly track, which can be a threat to Florida’s Gulf coast.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Hilary’s winds dropped to 110 mph from 135 mph yesterday, the center said. It’s a category two storm on the 5-step Saffir-Simpson scale and is 615 miles from the southwest of the tip of Baja California.

Hilary is forecast to weaken to a depression later this week on a course that may take the storm near Baja California’s west coast on Oct. 1, the center said.

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