The National Hurricane Center is monitoring Tropical Storm Philippe, located east of the Lesser Antilles. While the tropical disturbance is not a well-developed storm, it may impact the USVI and Puerto Rico this weekend, bringing rain and gusty winds.
As of a 5 p.m. update from the NHC on Wednesday, Philippe is packing maximum sustained winds of approximately 50 mph, and it is moving toward the west-northwest at about five mph. The system’s movement is being influenced by an area of high pressure, helping to steer it in a more westerly-southwesterly direction. It is forecast to reach the USVI and Puerto Rico as a potential tropical storm or a tropical depression.
With the storm encountering wind shear and drier air, both detrimental to tropical storms, there remains uncertainty about where Philippe will move and how intense the cyclone may be as it approaches the islands. The NHC admits that forecasting this cyclone’s exact track and intensity has been challenging.
“This is a fairly complicated intensity and track forecast. Philippe is in a sheared environment and currently lacks organization. The system is forecast to move into a slightly drier mid-level airmass in a few days, which may also inhibit the overall convective pattern,” according to the NHC update.
“There remains uncertainty in the intensity forecast, and it is possible Philippe maintains its tropical cyclone status as it reaches the northern Leeward Islands, or the system could weaken and open into a trough,” and be downgraded from tropical storm or tropical depression status to a post-tropical/low-pressure system, the update continues.
Wind is not a significant concern at this time, but flooding rains are possible starting on Saturday.
“Philippe is forecast to produce two to four inches of rain across the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and northern and eastern Puerto Rico Saturday through Monday. Elsewhere across Puerto Rico, one to two inches of rain is expected. Heavy rainfall from Philippe may produce isolated urban and small stream flooding impacts,” according to the NHC.
In addition to Tropical Storm Philippe, meteorologists are following another tropical wave, “Invest 91L,” as it moves closely behind Philippe in the Atlantic.
USVI visitors and residents can find information about severe weather, including emergency shelters and alerts, from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service website. Updates will also be posted to the Source Weather Page as they become available.