Tropical Storm Dorian Heads West After Forming off Africa

Tropical Storm Dorian formed in Atlantic off the coast of Africa on a westward path that may reach the Caribbean Sea late this week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Dorian, with top sustained winds of 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, was 505 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands as of 5 p.m. New York time, according to a center advisory. It was moving west-northwest at 20 mph.

“Slight weakening is possible on Thursday as Dorian moves over cooler water,” Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist at the center in Miami, said in the advisory.

Dorian is the fourth tropical storm of the Atlantic season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. It’s ahead of schedule: from 1966 to 2009, the fourth system typically formed by Aug. 23, according to the hurricane center’s website.

Stewart said weather models are in good agreement that Dorian will continue to move west. The hurricane center’s forecast maps, which project only five days ahead, show it tracking north of Puerto Rico by July 29. An intensity forecast has the storm’s strength peaking tomorrow with 60 mph winds.

The storm may encounter wind shear, cooler ocean water and dry air, which may rob it of strength or tear at its structure.

U.S. Threat

If Dorian can hold together as it crosses the Atlantic, there’s a possibility it may bring wind and rain to the U.S. South or the Bahamas early next week, said Michael Schlacter, founder and president of Weather 2000 Inc. in New York.

“It does have some hoops to fly through,” Schlacter said by telephone. “If we get past 96 hours and it’s still some sort of system, then all of a sudden things will start to become clear to people. There’s a built-in risk of an anticlimax here because it is off of Africa. We have a long, long time to watch this.”

Atlantic systems are followed by commodities traders because they can affect oil and natural gas production as well as orange crops.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 6 percent of U.S. natural gas output and 23 percent of oil production and more than 40 percent of petroleum refining capacity, according to the Energy Department. The Bay of Campeche, at the southern end of the Gulf, is where Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, has most of its production.

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