There could be a hurricane on the east coast next week. But it’s too early to tell.
Over Labor Day weekend, social media was flooded with stark warnings about a major storm hitting the east coast of the United States next week. That hypothetical storm has become Tropical Depression No. 13, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Before you freak out, it’s too early to say with any degree of certainty that a major hurricane will make landfall along the East Coast.
On Tuesday morning, the depression was moving west-northwest at 15 miles per hour in a remote area of the mid-Atlantic, where computer models that ran over the weekend indicated it would become a hurricane. These models have some social media users concerned about the depression becoming Tropical Storm Lee – the next name on the hurricane center’s list of tropical cyclones – and possibly hitting the US East Coast as a hurricane.
This is understandable. Meteorologists have been watching the depression since it began appearing in computer models before the weekend. The hurricane center will call Lee when winds reach 39 mph, if another storm does not form first.
And if it has an impact on Earth, the earliest it will be this weekend in the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean.
Some of the largest hurricanes to hit the East Coast, such as the unnamed hurricane that hit Long Island in 1938, or Hurricane Hugo, which made landfall in South Carolina in 1989, started in a similar area of the mid-Atlantic, far from land. This storm is expected to become a strong hurricane, if not a major hurricane, and will head west toward the United States. It could make landfall along the east coast, but it is also likely, or perhaps more likely, to stay out of the sea and off the east coast of the United States.
Social media posts about hypothetical ground avoiding a storm are usually not shared so much as an image of a forecast model showing a major storm within 14 days of hitting a major US city. Which is why scary posts, such as the one warning of “a terrible situation for the east coast of the United States”, appeared this weekend.
Right now, there are a lot of unknowns and a lot that could change before the storm approaches North America. This is likely to be a large storm and move west before turning north and then northeast. The question is when will this turn be made.
It’s all about steering currents, and as of Tuesday morning, computer forecast models were indicating an early turn to the north-northeast. This would endanger Bermuda more than the United States or Canada. More will be learned as more data is collected this week and that data is incorporated into computer models.
Even if this storm doesn’t make direct land anywhere, it will likely cause rip currents and large waves along the east coast of the United States next week. This storm is worth watching, but not fearing.