St. Thomas 𑁋 Tropical Storm Laura strengthen into a named storm Friday morning in the Atlantic Ocean, east of the Lesser Antilles. Tropical Storm Laura has triggered a tropical storm warning and warning of extreme weather alerts in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and Hispanola. Tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area within 12 to 24 hours.
Laura is moving into the Leeward Islands and flooding from heavy rainfall in these areas this weekend is expected. Locally heavy rainfall and mudslides, regardless of the system’s strength, is possible, which could trigger flash flooding in low lying areas.
In Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and parts of Hispaniola, rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches are possible, with maximum amounts up to 8 inches along eastern portions and the southern slopes of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, according to the National Hurricane Center. 1 to 3 inches of rainfall is expected in the northern Leeward Islands, southeastern Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos, with maximum rainfall, totals up to 5 inches.
Laura may approach parts of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico next week according to the National Hurricane Center. The intensity and path of this system are still highly uncertain when it approaches the U.S. It’s too early to determine what, if any, impacts the U.S. mainland may see.
Laura is also developing at the same time as another system currently located in the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Depression 14 is in the western Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Honduras. Much of the reporting from major news organizations have focused on future landfall on the mainland and not so much on the Caribbean islands that will begin feeling direct effects today.
Tropical Storm Laura is forecast to bring rain and torrential flooding to the Caribbean as it makes its way to the U.S. mainland. “This rainfall could cause flash and urban flooding,” the hurricane center says. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is already setting records with named storms forming at a pace never seen before.
The latest estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasted nearly twice the normal number of named storms in 2020. Laura is expected to be a hurricane when it reaches the U.S. coast near the Alabama-Florida border, the center reported. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the British Virgin Islands are still repairing infrastructure damaged in 2017 by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Climate change has been linked to the more frequent occurrence of major hurricanes globally as well as the rising number of hurricanes in the Atlantic. In addition to strong winds, many of the most dangerous storms in recent years have brought tremendous amounts of rain – creating new threats to people and infrastructure far inland from the coast.
Tropical Storm Laura is likely to move rather quickly to the west-northwest over the next few days on the southern periphery of a high-pressure system to its north. Tropical storm watches have been posted for the northern coast of Haiti, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.