Tropical Storm Humberto, aimed away from Florida, strengthens

By TIFFINI THEISEN | Orlando Sentinel | Published: September 15, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Tropical Storm Humberto grew slightly stronger Sunday morning as it continued moving north, staying well off Florida’s coast and allowing the state to dodge another bullet. It is expected to become a hurricane by tonight.

As of 11 a.m., the system was about 180 miles north-northwest of Great Abaco Island and about 165 miles east-northeast of Cape Canaveral, moving north at 7 mph with sustained winds at 65 mph, up from 60 mph earlier Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Although it is expected to strengthen further, its projected path keeps it well away from Florida.

“Tropical Storm Humberto continues to become better organized, and will likely be a hurricane later today or overnight tonight,” Fox 35 meteorologist Brooks Tomlin said after the 11 a.m. update. “While it will likely become a hurricane later today, Humberto is forecast to begin moving east-northeast today and tonight, keeping it far away from Florida.”

Swells from Humberto are expected to increase rip current threat along the coast of the Southeastern U.S., but there are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.

“Tonight into Monday, as Humberto moves farther away, our winds will become more northwesterly and we’ll see drier conditions,” Tomlin said after the 11 a.m. update. “Our biggest risk will likely be the enhanced seas, swells and rip currents at our Atlantic beaches through at least Wednesday or Thursday.”

The storm is projected to become Hurricane Humberto on Sunday night with long-range forecasts putting Humberto within striking distance of Bermuda by Wednesday.

“A sharp turn to the northeast is forecast to occur Monday morning or afternoon, followed by a motion toward the northeast and east-northeast on Tuesday and Wednesday,” the NHC said in its 11 a.m. advisory discussion.

The NHC dropped the tropical storm watch that was in effect on Friday from the Jupiter Inlet to Flagler-Volusia county line. There also is no longer a tropical storm warning for the northwestern Bahamas, but the storm expected to bring 1-3 inches with pockets of 6-inch rain to parts of the island nation, although not much storm surge threat is projected.

Humberto’s tropical storm-force winds extend out 160 miles. Strong winds and squalls were affecting portions of the northwestern Bahamas, but beginning to subside on Sunday morning.

“Humberto is ingesting less dry air and is gaining enhanced, persistent convection near its center, which a sign that the storm’s vertical structure is improving,” Tomlin said

The NHC said the swells “are expected to produce dangerous surf conditions and life-threatening rip currents.”

Humberto narrowly missed the Bahamas, which is still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. The storm briefly shuttered a couple of small airports, sent people in damaged homes to seek shelter and threatened to interrupt the distribution of sorely needed supplies including food and water.

Residents soon turned to the task at hand: resuming their cleanup and recovery efforts.

On Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres visited the island of Great Abaco to support humanitarian efforts in the wake of the storm that left thousands in need of food, water and shelter.

"Hurricane Dorian has been classified as Category 5. I think it's Category Hell," said the secretary-general, adding he was horrified by the "level of systematic devastation."

The islands’ official death toll from the hurricane remained at 50 and the number of missing at an alarming 1,300 people, although officials cautioned the list is preliminary and many people could just be unable to connect with loved ones.

Meanwhile, two more tropical waves are being tracked by the National Hurricane Center.

One system formed overnight in the Gulf of Mexico and has a low chance of developing into a tropical storm.

The other, located in the central tropical Atlantic, has a 70 percent chance of formation in the next five days.

Rick Tribou, David Harris and Todd Stewart of the Sentinel staff, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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