Larry could rapidly strengthen into Category 4 hurricane

·6 min read

Larry strengthened into the fifth hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season early Thursday over the eastern tropical Atlantic, and AccuWeather forecasters said that the storm is forecast to reach major hurricane strength in the coming days.

Larry was packing maximum sustained winds of 90 mph by 5 a.m. EDT Friday- up from 70 mph Wednesday evening. As of 5 a.m. EDT Friday, it was located 970 miles to the west of the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands as it moved to the west-northwest at 20 mph.

The storm is projected to remain over the open waters of the Atlantic for several more days, but it could eventually approach Bermuda -- or even veer toward North America.

This image, taken on early Friday morning, Sept. 3, 2021, shows Hurricane Larry located to the west of the Cabo Verde Islands in the eastern Atlantic. (GOES-East/CIRA at Colorado State)

AccuWeather forecasters saw signs of Larry developing early on Monday as a robust tropical wave emerged from the coast of Africa. By 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday, this tropical wave organized into Tropical Depression 12. Just 12 hours later, the tropical depression was upgraded to Tropical Storm Larry. The system spent 24 hours as a tropical storm before becoming Hurricane Larry early on Thursday morning.

The system will continue to move toward the west over the next few days before it makes a turn to the northwest this weekend.

"Further strengthening, into major hurricane strength (Category 3 or stronger with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater), is predicted to occur this weekend or early next week," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.

The storm is currently forecast to reach Category 4 strength, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. A Category 4 hurricane has winds between 130-156 mph.

In addition to the possibility of strengthening into the season's third major hurricane, behind Hurricane Grace and Hurricane Ida, it is possible that Larry may last well into the second week of September and become the longest-lived named system so far this season. It could last even longer than Elsa did earlier this season when it churned across the basin for nine calendar days spanning July 1 to 9.

The path Larry may take beyond early next week includes the potential for multiple scenarios, and AccuWeather meteorologists are analyzing many factors to determine how the tropical system will behave. One of the factors being looked at is how the jet stream will be positioned over the eastern United States.

A dip in the jet stream is predicted to move into the Northeast next week. Depending on the exact positioning, strong winds aloft associated with the jet stream can keep tropical systems away from North America.

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In other cases, a plunge in the jet stream can actually be oriented in such a way as to leave the region open to a tropical hit. This occurred most recently with Henri in August. Henri traveled northwestward and made landfall in southern New England, before completing a loop over the lower Hudson Valley then finally exiting out to sea over eastern Massachusetts. The storm unleashed several inches of rain that triggered flooding and travel problems across the Northeast.

Because of the pattern anticipated next week, there has been a westward trend in Larry's path. There are some indications that the storm could make a close approach to Newfoundland around Sept. 10-11.

AccuWeather forecasters recommend that all interests in the Leeward Islands, Bermuda, Atlantic Canada and even the northeastern U.S. closely monitor the progress of Larry over the next couple of weeks.

Larry was not the only area of the basin being watched for trouble. "There are all kinds of skeletons in the closet," AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said while analyzing the copious potential for tropical storm development over the Atlantic basin in the coming days.

One area of concern is located over the western half of the Gulf of Mexico during next week, where a system could slowly take shape.

Kottlowski also noted that forecasters will be keeping a close eye on the waters near the Florida Peninsula, Georgia and the Carolinas from late this week to early next week. This zone will be near the tail end of a front that is forecast to stall over the region. If a low-pressure area can separate from this front, it is possible for a tropical system to develop.

With 12 named tropical storms -- and two major hurricanes -- already in the books for the Atlantic in 2021, the pace continues to run well ahead of average. Typically, the 12th named system or second major hurricane does not occur for another five weeks, or in early October.

Following Category 3 Hurricane Grace from mid-August, Ida became the second major hurricane of the 2021 season over the weekend and also became the first Category 4 hurricane of 2021.

As of Sept. 1, the 2021 hurricane season is within three storms of the record pace set during 2020, when 30 named systems formed and required the use of the Greek alphabet. In 2020, storms Nana and Omar had formed through the first day of September. With additional swarms of tropical activity anticipated in the coming weeks, it is possible for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season to go neck and neck with the 2020 season for the duration.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will no longer use the Greek alphabet to name systems beyond the original list of 21 names for the year. Instead, should this year's list of names be exhausted, there is a supplemental list that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) will use in alphabetical order. These names are Adria, Braylen, Caridad, Deshawn, Emery, Foster, Gemma, Heath, Isla, Jacobus, Kenzie, Lucio, Makayla, Nolan, Orlanda, Pax, Ronin, Sophie, Tayshaun, Viviana and Will.

The last name on the regular list for 2021 is Wanda for 2021 as the letters X, Y and Z are not used.

AccuWeather is now projecting at least 20 named tropical systems with seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes. At least one more named system is forecast to have a direct impact on the U.S. with the potential for even more. Thus far, six named tropical systems have made landfall in the U.S. Four of those struck along the Gulf Coast, an area still reeling from last season's destruction.

There are plenty more named tropical systems to go for the 2021 Atlantic season as the peak of hurricane season continues through much of October. The season does not officially end until Nov. 30.

Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier, Spectrum, FuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios.

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