April 21, 2003 – Nearly six weeks before the start of hurricane season on June 1, Tropical Storm Ana formed off the south coast of Bermuda on Monday.
"It's rare, but it happens," Scott Stripling, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, said.
Ana poses no danger to the Virgin Islands and is heading on an east-southeast course away from the U.S. mainland. As of Monday afternoon, it was centered at 29.8 degrees north latitude and 64.2 degrees west longitude. Winds were clocked at 40 mph with gusts up to 50 mph, and the barometric pressure stood at 29.58 inches.
Stripling reminded residents that although the territory hasn't taken a hurricane hit in a few years, they shouldn't get complacent. "Let this be a wakeup call for everyone," he said, referring to Ana.
Stripling said he agrees with Colorado State University hurricane forecaster William Gray's prediction that this will be an above-average season of hurricane activity. Gray has forecast a dozen named storms this year, saying that eight will become hurricanes and that three of those will be intense hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or more.
The annual average over the years is 9.6 tropical storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.
Stripling said there's no need to worry in the Virgin Islands until the end of July, the usual time for hurricane season to start to ramp up.
However, the territory will feel some effects of Tropical Storm Ana, Stripling said: Northerly swells already impacting the coasts should increase and scattered showers are likely on Tuesday.
He said meteorologists are categorizing Ana as a "subtropical storm" because it formed in the upper levels of the atmosphere, rather than near the sea surface as hurricanes do. Additionally, he said, Ana doesn't have the abundant thunderstorm activity normally associated with tropical storms.
A similar situation occurred early in the 1992 season, Stripling said, but he knows of no other such occurrences.
With Ana's name claimed, here are the others on the list for 2003: Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fabian, Grace, Henri, Isabel, Juan, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor and Wanda.
Efforts to reach the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency on Monday were unsuccessful because of the Easter Monday holiday.
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