Ophelia became the fifteenth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season earlier today after it developed in the eastern Atlantic. The storm is currently located approximately 1,370 miles (2,205 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm packs sustained winds of around 45 mph (75 kmph), equivalent to a tropical storm. Ophelia is traveling in a westerly direction and this general motion is expected to continue for the next 48 hours with some increase in forward speed. Ophelia is expected to take a more northwesterly track towards the end of the week. On this forecast track, Ophelia is expected to move through the Atlantic this week and approach the Leeward Islands over the weekend. The NHC said tropical storm force winds extend 175 miles (280 kilometers) from the center of the storm.
Forecasters expect the storm to maintain its general westerly course for much of this week before taking a more northwesterly track. This path will see Ophelia continue to move across the mid-Atlantic and approach the Leeward Islands on September 24. The storm is expected to hit or skirt the northern Leeward Islands early next week. The official NHC prediction has Ophelia strengthening over the next 48 hours before weakening towards the end of the 5 day forecast range. Ophelia is expected to remain a tropical storm over the next five days, according to the NHC.
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The storm poses no immediate threat to land and it remains unclear at this stage whether it will impact the United States, Bermuda or the Caribbean. Several long term forecast models show Ophelia taking a similar track to other recent storms in the Atlantic (including hurricanes Katia and Maria) and eventually curving away from the Caribbean and United States coastline. However, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding Ophelia’s projected track and intensity at this time and forecasters say it is too early to determine whether the storm will threaten land.
Guy Carpenter will continue to monitor Ophelia’s progress over the next couple of days.
Sources: National Hurricane Center, WSI, Associated Press, Reuters News, Agence France Presse
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