Humberto Is Season’s First Hurricane as Gabrielle Drifts

Hurricane Humberto, the first such system of the season, strengthened in the Atlantic west of the Cape Verde Islands as Tropical Storm Gabrielle weakened after passing Bermuda.

Humberto’s maximum sustained winds increased to 85 miles (137 kilometers) per hour from 80 mph earlier. It was declared a hurricane at 5 a.m., missing the record for the tardiest big storm since satellites began watching the Atlantic in 1967. The mark for the latest that such a powerful storm has formed is held by 2002’s Gustav, born at 8 a.m. on Sept. 11, said Dennis Feltgen, a National Hurricane Center spokesman.

Jared Smith, an operational meteorologist at MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland, said Humberto will only get about halfway across the Atlantic before turning onto a northward track.

“It’s pretty much a non-story for anyone in North America,” he said.

Humberto was about 360 miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands and moving north at 12 mph as of 5 p.m. New York time, the center said.

Gabrielle’s Track

Gabrielle was moving west-northwest at 5 mph with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, down from 45 mph earlier, the center said. It was about 620 miles south-southeast of Massachusetts’ Nantucket Island and expected to take a path that will brush Nova Scotia and cross Newfoundland later this week.

“Gabrielle is really a discombobulated storm,” said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “Frankly, I think we’re sitting on a dead horse here.”

The storm is being torn apart by wind shear and a cold front will push it away from the U.S. East Coast, he said.

That doesn’t mean the threat to the Canadian Maritime provinces has eased. When a system runs into a cold front coming off the North American continent, it’s possible for the storm to gain power and strength even if it isn’t a tropical entity anymore, Kottlowski said.

“That interaction causes a storm to intensify,” he said.

Canada Outlook

The cold front is expected to bring heavy rain across New Brunswick in the next two days and the moisture from Gabrielle will “form a second swath of heavy rain” over Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland by the end of the week, according to the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

The same front is expected to turn Humberto away from North America next week, Kottlowski said.

Eight named storms have formed in the Atlantic so far this season, which began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. The systems are followed closely by energy and commodity markets because they can disrupt supply and demand of petroleum products, natural gas and crops.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 5.6 percent of U.S. natural gas output, 23 percent of oil production and more than 45 percent of petroleum refining capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Florida, which is struck by tropical systems more often than any U.S. state, is the second-largest producer of oranges after Brazil.

A system gets a name when its winds reach 39 mph and it becomes a tropical storm. Yesterday was the statistical peak of the Atlantic season.

Systems Watched

The U.S. hurricane center is also tracking two areas of disturbed weather that may strengthen into tropical systems.

The first, near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, is expected to move into the Bay of Campeche tomorrow and has a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next five days, the center said. Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, known as Pemex, has rigs in the bay.

The water in the bay is so warm it’s possible Tropical Storm Ingrid could be on the hurricane center’s tracking map in the next few days, Kottlowski said.

If any storm forms there, it will probably stay south of U.S. energy production areas in the Gulf of Mexico, said MDA’s Smith. The system is forecast to bring heavy rains across the Yucatan, Belize and Guatemala in the next two days.

The second area being monitored is about 700 miles east of the Leeward Islands and has a 10 percent chance of becoming tropical in the next five days.

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