- System would be second storm before hurricane season’s start
- Hurricane Alex in January was the first that early since 1938
A storm that would be named Bonnie threatens holiday cookouts and celebrations along the U.S. coast from North Carolina to Georgia over the Memorial Day weekend.
If the low-pressure system now northeast of the Bahamas develops, it will become the second named storm in the Atlantic in 2016 prior to the hurricane season’s official June 1 start. There’s a 50 percent chance it could form by Saturday.
“With Memorial Day weekend approaching, all interests along the southeast coast from Georgia through North Carolina should monitor the progress of this low,” Lixion Avila, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, wrote in an advisory.
In January, Alex became the first hurricane to form in the Atlantic that early since 1938. The official six-month season begins Wednesday and there’s a chance it could be an above-average year for storms because there will be less wind shear across the basin as El Nino fades in the equatorial Pacific.
Wind shear in the area and cooler waters deep in the Atlantic could slow the low’s development into a named storm, said Paul Walker, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
“It’s probably likely it does develop,” he said.
Whether Bonnie is tropical or subtropical remains to be seen. Tropical systems differ from other storms because they have a warm core, their strongest winds are at their center and they maintain their power by extracting heat energy from the ocean. A sub-tropical storm is a hybrid system.
If Bonnie forms, there’s an increased possibility for rip currents, gusty winds and heavy surf along Atlantic beaches through the holiday weekend, Walker said.
While forecast models will be able to make better predictions once the system becomes more organized, the current thinking is that it will drift northwest and be off Charleston, South Carolina, by Sunday, he said.
A U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane is scheduled to fly into the system Friday, said the hurricane center in Miami.