FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tropical Storm Epsilon, the earliest 26th-named storm on record in the Atlantic, continues strengthening in the central Atlantic Ocean, according to Tuesday’s 5 p.m. advisory.
The National Hurricane Center said Epsilon’s structure “greatly improved” Tuesday afternoon and there are even hints of an eyelike feature starting to develop.
Epsilon, which isn’t expected to threaten South Florida or anywhere else in the United States, now has sustained winds of 65 mph, which is 15 mph stronger than Tuesday morning.
It’s on track to become the season’s 10th hurricane by Tuesday night or early Wednesday, roughly a day earlier than Tuesday’s previous forecasts predicted.
Epsilon is located 615 miles east-southeast of Bermuda. It’s moving northwest at 13 mph, a 1 mph increase from the 2 p.m. advisory.
“This general motion is expected to continue tonight,” the NHC said, “followed by a slightly slower west-northwestward or northwestward motion on Wednesday and Thursday. On the forecast track, Epsilon is forecast to move closer to Bermuda on Thursday and make its closest approach to the island on Thursday night.”
Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 345 miles, primarily to the north of the center.
The NHC has issued a tropical storm watch for Bermuda. A tropical storm watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
The busy 2020 hurricane season is rivaling the 2005 season, which had a record 27 named storms and a record total of 28 storms.
“One unnamed subtropical storm was found in post-analysis of the 2005 season, thus bringing that season’s record total to 28 storms,” according to The Weather Channel.
This is the second time in recorded history that Epsilon has been used as a storm name — the first was Nov. 29, 2005. That storm, according to AccuWeather, was also “the longest-lived December hurricane on record.”
It also broke the previous record of earliest 26th named storm ever to form. The previous record-holder was a storm called Delta that formed on Nov. 22, 2005, according to Phil Klotzbach, head meteorologist at Colorado State University.
Based on the latest models, Epsilon could bring “indirect effects, such as high seas and rough surf,” according to meteorologists at The Weather Channel.
Similar conditions are expected in the Bahamas and the northern coasts of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Leeward Islands.
Parts of the U.S. East Coast, including South Florida, are already experiencing coastal flooding this week due to king tides and “onshore winds from an area of high pressure,” according to The Weather Channel.
“It’s still possible that the system tracks a little farther south and west and makes a direct hit on Bermuda as a hurricane,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.
The NHC is also monitoring a broad area of low pressure in the southwestern Caribbean Sea between Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba. But it’s not expected to be an issue anytime soon.
“Upper-level winds are expected to remain unfavorable for significant development while the system drifts westward over the next few days,” the NHC said.
Forecasters have given it a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression or storm in the next five days.
Its path is uncertain, but “there is a chance it could affect Cuba, the Bahamas and perhaps the Florida Peninsula either directly or indirectly during the fourth week of October,” AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.
The next named storm to form would be called Zeta.
Because 2020 is a La Niña year, forecasters expect late-season storm activity to increase in October and possibly even carry into November.
Remarkably, none of the storms that have made landfall in the continental U.S. this year have hit Florida. October storms often threaten Florida as they move north and then northeastward.
The official last day of hurricane season is Nov. 30.
©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)