Caribbean system could affect Florida; Hurricane Epsilon's winds drop to 85 mph near Bermuda

©Sun Sentinel

Map of Hurricane Epsilon. - Davis/TNS/TNS

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — South Floridians should keep an eye on an area of low pressure in the southwestern Caribbean Sea between Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba.

The system is likely to bring heavy rain to South Florida through early next week. It’s too early to tell if the system will track over the peninsula.

It has a 10% chance of developing in the next two days and a 30% chance of developing in the next five days, the National Hurricane Center said.

The next named storm to form would be called Zeta.

Near Bermuda, Hurricane Epsilon lost a bit more strength Thursday afternoon. Epsilon is still a Category 1 storm, but its winds are down to 85 mph, according to the 5 p.m. EDT advisory from the hurricane center.

The 85 mph reading represents a 15 mph drop in wind speed since the 8 a.m. advisory.

Epsilon, the season’s 10th hurricane, was 200 miles east of Bermuda and moving north-northwest at 9 mph.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 240 miles, a 70-mile reduction from Thursday afternoon. Hurricane-force winds extend 15 miles from the center.

“Satellite images indicate that the eye of Epsilon has lost definition over the past several hours,” the hurricane center said.

Epsilon is expected to track northward overnight and continue on that path for the next day or two. It could strengthen slightly as it has a trough interaction and travels over a small warm eddy near the Gulf Stream either Friday or Saturday.

But Epsilon isn’t expected to reach Category 2 status (winds between 96 and 110 mph) again.

Epsilon, the earliest 26th-named storm on record in the Atlantic, is expected to stay well out to sea and doesn’t pose a direct threat to the U.S.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Bermuda. Tropical storm conditions are expected intermittently on Bermuda through Thursday night, forecasters said, when Epsilon is expected to make it closest approach east of the island.

Epsilon’s large swells will bring life-threatening surf and rip current conditions to South Florida’s beaches. The large swells will also affect Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, the Leeward Islands, and Atlantic Canada during the next few days.

Epsilon is expected to become a non-tropical cyclone over the weekend.

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.

Hurricane Epsilon marks the fifth time in the satellite era (since 1966) the Atlantic basin has had at least 10 hurricanes by Oct. 20, according to Klotzbach, joining 2017, 2005, 1995 and 1969.

Further, Klotzbach said this year’s 90 named storm days is sixth-most in the satellite era after 2017, 2012, 2005, 2004 and 1995.

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.)

Map of Hurricane Epsilon. - Davis/TNS/TNS