Aug. 14, 2004 – As the people in Punta Gorda, Fla., know all too well, a storm may veer from its predicted track. That's why it's important to watch what happens with Tropical Storm Earl, which until 5 p.m. Saturday was Tropical Depression 5.
Earl is expected to strengthen into a hurricane, but forecasters remain optimistic that it will pass about 200 miles south of St. Croix on Monday.
"It can't get very much farther north because of high pressure," National Weather Service meteorologist Walter Snell said from San Juan.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, Tropical Storm Earl was located 375 miles east-southeast of Barbados, centered at 10.8 degrees north latitude and 54.5 degrees west longitude. It was moving west-northwest at 24 mph with a wind speed of 40 mph. The barometric pressure stood at 1006 millibars, or 29.7 inches.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Punta Gorda, on Florida's west coast, took a direct hit from Hurricane Charley on Friday afternoon. Forecasters thought until just hours before the category 4 hurricane arrived that it would make landfall in the Tampa Bay area some 75 miles to the north. But instead Charley, packing 145 mph winds, turned east and ripped across central Florida. As of Saturday afternoon, having lost strength, it was churning its way up the U.S. East Coast as a tropical storm.
Meanwhile, Tropical Depression 4 became Tropical Storm Danielle on Friday night. But it appears to be on a track that will take it well northeast of the Virgin Islands in the coming week.
"Danielle goes swinging off to the north well before it gets to the latitude where Earl is now," Snell said. Nevertheless, he said, the territory could see a few swells from it.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Tropical Storm Danielle was centered at 13.7 degrees north latitude and 28.7 degrees west longitude. The system was moving west-northwest at 14 mph with sustained winds of 65 mph. The barometric pressure stood at 994 millibars, or 29.34 inches.
Snell also noted that a tropical wave that appeared about to pop off West Africa looks as if it could develop into something stronger. It bears watching, he said.
Although it appears that the Virgin Islands will again dodge the bullet with both Earl and Danielle, their presence should serve as a wake-up call for those who have yet to check their hurricane supplies.
Make sure you have plenty of batteries, drinking water and non-perishable food items, along with adequate essential prescription medications. Check your flashlights and portable radio to make sure they function. Run your generator if you have one, and clean up debris around your yard.
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