Hurricane Sam maintains 75 mph winds, still expected to rapidly intensify

Hurricane Sam is expected to become a Category 4 storm with winds of at least 130 mph during the next few days. At this point, however, it's not forecast to threaten South Florida. (National Hurricane Center/TNS)
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Keven Lerner South Florida Sun Sentinel (TNS)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Hurricane Sam, the seventh hurricane of the 2021 season, maintained its Category 1 wind speed of 75 miles per hour late Friday morning, but the storm is expected to rapidly intensify again in the next few days, the National Hurricane Center said.

Sam could become a major hurricane by early Saturday, which means winds of at least 111 mph.

If Sam reaches that threshold, it would become the fourth major hurricane of 2021. And that’s not likely to be the end of its growth.

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Forecasters predict Sam could hit Category 4 status, which means 130 mph winds, by the end of the weekend.

“The large scale environmental conditions all appear favorable for continued rapid intensification during the next day or so,” forecasters said.

Sam underwent rapid intensification, defined as a wind increase of at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period, over the previous 24 hours as it grew from a tropical depression into a hurricane.

As of the 11 a.m. update, the system was about 1,365 miles east-southeast of the eastern Caribbean and moving west at 14 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend 15 miles from Sam’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extend 60 miles from its center.

It is still unclear whether Sam will affect Florida or any part of the United States. But forecasters said a fast-developing storm, which accurately describes Sam, raises the likelihood it will miss Florida.

U.S. models have the storm continuing to move west toward the Caribbean, but most projections have Sam pushing north just before making landfall in Dominica. European models have Sam making a more aggressive push into the Caribbean before turning north.

AccuWeather forecasters said Sam could run into disruptive wind shear next week if it takes a path near the Bahamas and Cuba.

“The faster that this system strengthens over the next few days, the more likely it is to re-curve east of Florida, and potentially well east of Florida,” according to AccuWeather meteorologist Randy Adkins.

“[However] if this storm takes a little while longer to organize and develop into a hurricane, then that will likely keep it on a track that’s farther to the south and likely increase the likelihood that Florida could see some impacts from this system.”

Adkins said any potential impact from Sam wouldn’t be felt for another week or so, during the first weekend of October.

Sam is the second earliest 18th named storm to form in the Atlantic basin, only behind the 2020 season.

Meanwhile, Peter and Rose dissipated Thursday.

Also Thursday, an area of low pressure emerged several hundred miles southeast of Bermuda. Forecasters say there’s low odds for its development over the next couple days as it moves north-northwest, and after that the presence of strong upper-level winds should prevent any further development.

There is also a medium chance that the remnants of the former Tropical Storm Odette could redevelop and become a subtropical storm within the next day or two. It is in the northern Atlantic and is no threat to land.

Meanwhile, a tropical wave is expected to roll off Africa’s west coast by end of the weekend. It’s forecast to move west at 10 to 15 mph and it has a medium chance of development in five days.

Adkins expects hurricane season will remain busy for the next few weeks.

“There’s definitely precedent, and unfortunately it seems like last year is a relatively close match for this year in terms of how things have evolved,” he said in reference to the record 30 named storms of the 2020 hurricane season.

“Obviously, last year was a bit busier but we’re well above average already to date with this hurricane season. Given that, I would anticipate we’re going to have activity continue through the remainder of the month and into October.”

The wind shear that kept former tropical storms Peter and Rose from developing into stronger systems is expected to be weak for the next several days, which will support Sam’s development, as will warm water temperatures in the Atlantic.

“Rose and Peter were in a much more hostile environment, especially Peter,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesperson for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “Sam will certainly be growing into a tropical storm, a hurricane and a major hurricane.”

Tropical Depression Rose was a remnant low by early Thursday. Tropical Depression Peter died out Wednesday night.

The remaining storm names for the 2021 season are Teresa, Victor and Wanda, with more than two months to go.

Should we run out of storm names, late-season storms will no longer carry baffling Greek names like Zeta and Theta that were used last year. Experts have opted to use an overflow list of proper names instead. The list includes Adria, Braylen, Caridad, Deshawn, Emery, Foster, Gemma and Heath.

So far in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, there have been 18 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

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