By ROBIN WEBB, BROOKE BAITINGER and VICTORIA BALLARD
(SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL) — Tropical Storm Epsilon, the earliest 26th-named storm on record in the Atlantic, emerged southeast of Bermuda on Monday and could become a hurricane by early Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said.
At 11 p.m., Epsilon was stalling at 2 mph over the central Atlantic about 750 miles southeast of Bermuda, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, the hurricane center said. Tropical storms form when sustained winds are at or above 39 mph.
The busy 2020 hurricane season is rivaling the 2005 season, which had a record 27 named storms.
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 is expected to hover around Bermuda, then travel north. This path would keep it well offshore of the U.S. East Coast, but could bring “indirect effects, such as high seas and rough surf,” according to meteorologists at The Weather Channel.
Epsilon is forecast to be near hurricane strength on Wednesday, and forecasters expect it to approach Bermuda on Thursday.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 275 miles, primarily to the north of the center.
It is forecast to become more powerful as it moves over warm water, but it is likely to encounter wind shear by midweek, AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.
The National Hurricane Center is also monitoring a broad area of low pressure in the southwestern Caribbean Sea between Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba. If it is not hindered by wind shear, there is an expectation of some minor development as the system moves slowly to the northwest.
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,” 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.