Texas and parts of Louisiana are still dealing with catastrophic flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey, which is still dumping rain in many areas. But forecasters are also starting to keep an eye on a new storm that may become the next threat: Tropical Storm Irma.
Irma was declared the season’s ninth named storm by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Wednesday. The NHC is projecting that the storm could intensify to hurricane status by Friday morning, though it’s still too soon to know whether it will pose a threat to anyone in the Caribbean or US.
The big question is where Irma will go. It’s currently in the Eastern Atlantic, moving west at 10 to 15 mph. When it reaches the Antilles Islands in the Eastern Caribbean next week, researchers will be watching its path.
Most storms that turn north before they hit the Antilles wind up curving away from the US, according to cyclone researcher Brian McNoldy. But if Irma passes over the islands or goes south of them, as some models predict, it could become a threat for locations in the Caribbean, Mexico, or the US.
This is the first time Irma has been used as a name for a storm. Storm names are selected from an alphabetical recurring list, but particular names are retired if they become associated with a particularly devastating weather event. Irma replaced the name Irene after the 2011 hurricane with that name caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean and US.
We’ll know more about Irma by the middle of next week, according to McNoldy.
At the same time, there’s another potential tropical disturbance that could form in the Gulf of Mexico next Tuesday or Wednesday, he wrote. If that happens, that storm could be headed for the already drenched Texas and Louisiana coasts.