July 31, 2004 Tropical Depression 1, the first of the 2004 hurricane season, formed late Saturday afternoon off the coast of Florida. Tropical Depression 1 poses no threat to the Virgin Islands or the rest of the Caribbean, but it's a reminder that although this hurricane season took about two months to get underway, things are starting to heat up.
Hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30. It reaches its peak in mid-September, but October and November storms are not uncommon.
At the 5 p.m. update, Tropical Depression 1 was centered at 30.6 North and 78.6 West. Winds hit 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph. It was moving northwest at 9 mph. The barometric pressure stands at 29.83 inches or 1010 millibars.
A tropical storm watch was issued from Edisto Beach in South Carolina to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.
Forecasters are, however, watching a tropical wave now located 600 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. It's showing signs of organization as it heads west across the Atlantic, but it's far too early to say what, if any, impact it will have on the Virgin Islands.
"It's just too soon," said Brad Diehl, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan.
He said it would be at least Friday or next Saturday before it enters our region.
Diehl said that there's another tropical wave just coming off the African coast that also bears watching.
He said that when waves first hit the open ocean, they could lose intensity. However, as they head across the Atlantic, they often pick up strength.
Diehl reminded V. I. residents that now is the time to stock up on batteries, flashlights, food, and other hurricane necessities.
"You really need to start paying attention," he said.
Should Tropical Depression 1 escalate into a tropical storm, it will be called Alex.
Subsequent storms will be named Bonnie, Charley, Danielle, Earl, Frances, Gaston, Hermine, Ivan, Jeanne, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginia, and Walter.
While this hurricane season seemed slow to start, the most costliest hurricane in history, Andrew, didn't form until Aug. 16, 1992. After passing well north of the Virgin Islands, it slammed into south Florida, crossed the Gulf of Mexico and devastated Louisiana. It caused $30.5 billion worth of damage.
By comparison, www.wunderground.com reports that Hurricane Hugo, which did a big number on the Virgin Islands and South Carolina in 1989, caused only $9.7 billion in damages. Hurricane Marilyn, which hit here as well as Puerto Rico in 1995, caused $1.5 billion worth of damage.
After Hurricane Marilyn, the territory saw a slew of lesser hurricanes that ended with Hurricane Lenny in 1999. Although there have been a few close calls, no hurricane has hit the territory since Lenny.
Colorado State University hurricane guru William Gray on May 28 predicted the season would see 14 named storms, with eight becoming hurricanes. Of that eight, he predicts three will be intense hurricanes with winds over 111 mph.
In case you're a hurricane newbie, here's what you need to know. A tropical depression is the weakest storm, followed by a tropical storm. Hurricanes follow. A category I hurricane sees winds of 74 to 95 mph. Winds in category 2 storms range from 96 to 110. If it's a category 3, the winds will range from 111 to 130 mph. Category 4 storms have winds of 131 to 155 mph. Anything over 155 mph, and it's a category 5.
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