Juggling tropical Storms Wilfred, Beta, Hurricane Teddy and a new wave. That’s a record

Alex Harris, Michelle Marchante, Howard Cohen, Colleen Wright
·6 min read

The breakneck pace of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season claimed another record on Friday after three tropical storms formed within a 24-hour period, hitting fast-forward on the National Hurricane Center’s adoption of the Greek alphabet for storm names.

By Saturday morning, there were five systems to monitor in the Atlantic waters.

First came Tropical Storm Wilfred in the Atlantic around 11 a.m. Friday, then Subtropical Storm Alpha near Portugal at 12:30 p.m. Alpha dissipated by Saturday night. Tropical Storm Beta, in the Gulf of Mexico, broke the record around 5 p.m. Friday.

For just the second time, tropical storms and hurricanes will be named after Greek letters, a backup list that the National Hurricane Center first turned to when it exhausted its alphabetical list in 2005.

NOAA’s midseason prediction called for 19 to 25 named storms this season, and Beta is number 23. The record for most storms in one season, 27, is held by 2005.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Hurricane Teddy, a powerful Category 4 storm, continued to move toward Bermuda on Saturday. Also on forecasters’ radar: Post-tropical cyclone Paulette might reform in the faraway Atlantic, and a new tropical wave could move off the west coast of Africa later Saturday.

Five systems in the Atlantic on Sept. 19, 2020.
Five systems in the Atlantic on Sept. 19, 2020.

One name is left on the hurricane list, and it’s only September. Why so many storms?

Tropical Storm Wilfred forms, Alpha a low

Tropical Storm Wilfrid at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, advisory.
Tropical Storm Wilfrid at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, advisory.

At the 11 p.m. Saturday update, “woeful Wilfred” was pointed in the general direction of the Bahamas and the East Coast of the U.S. and about 1,105 miles west of the Cabo Verde islands and 1,390 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Forecasters dubbed it “woeful” because the prediction is that it would diminish to a depression as soon as Monday and then dissipate.

At a steady 16 mph and holding at 40 mph winds, Wilfred continued west-northwestward with no change in strength. Tropical storm-force winds shrunk to 45 miles from the center.

The hurricane center said Wilfred could strengthen a bit in the next few days, but then a large upper-level trough would set in and break it apart with increased wind shear, likely turning Wilfred into a remnant low.

Subtropical Storm Alpha formed just after noon Friday, but by the 11 p.m. update had become a remnant low over the District Of Viseu, Portugal. The hurricane center is no longer issuing advisories for Alpha.

Tropical Storm Beta breaks record

Tropical Storm Beta formed Friday afternoon hours after Wilfred and Alpha, marking the first time three named storms formed within a 24-hour period. The previous record was three storms forming within a 30-hour period, in August 1993, when Humberto, Iris and Jerry formed, tweeted Tomer Burg, an atmospheric science Ph.D. student at the University of Oklahoma.

As of 11 p.m. Saturday, Beta had held on to 60 mph winds with higher gusts while crawling at 2 mph north-northeast over the Gulf for the past few hours. Forecasters say Beta is expected to slowly strengthen in the next few days as Beta could be near hurricane strength as it approaches the Texas coast.

Beta is about 235 miles southeast of Galveston and 325 miles east of Corpus Christi and 245 miles. Data from Hurricane Hunter flights show that Beta’s center has drifted toward the northeast during the day. Beta is expected to drift back westward Saturday night, followed by a slow motion toward the west-northwest that should continue through late Monday.

A storm surge warning was exted from east of High Island, Texas to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana.

A tropical storm warning was issued at 11 a.m. for Port Aransas, Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect from Baffin Bay, Texas to Port Aransas, Texas and from High Island, Texas to Cameron, Louisiana.

“A slow westward motion is expected to begin late Saturday, with a slow northwestward motion forecast to begin late Sunday and continue through late Monday,” forecasters said. “On the forecast track, the center of Beta will slowly approach the Texas coast into early next week.”

Beta is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane Sunday night or Monday, but the forecast calls for the storm to weaken back to a tropical storm before scraping along the Texas coast for a few days.

Tropical Storm Beta at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.
Tropical Storm Beta at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.

The hurricane center cautioned that it was too soon to tell what impact the storm could have, considering its curvy path.

Forecasters say it’s also too early to tell which areas could see direct wind, storm surge and rainfall from this system, though they are expecting swells to increase and reach the coast of Texas and along the Gulf coast of Mexico over the weekend, possibly causing life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Port Aransas, Texas, to High Island, Texas.

The Tropical Storm Watch for east of Intracoastal City, Louisiana to Morgan City, Louisiana has been upgraded to a Tropical Storm Warning.

How strong will Hurricane Teddy be when it nears Bermuda?

Hurricane Teddy at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.
Hurricane Teddy at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.

Bermuda issued a tropical storm watch Friday evening as Hurricane Teddy, now weakened to a Category 3 storm, continued its path toward the island at 13 mph.

As of the 11 p.m. Saturday update, it held its maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, with higher gusts. Teddy was about 405 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and is expected to continue moving northwest into early Sunday.

Teddy is predicted to take a turn toward the north or north-northeast by Sunday evening, then speed up toward the north early next week. Teddy will approach Bermuda on Sunday with tropical storm-force conditions as the center passes just east of the island Monday morning.

Hurricane-force winds currently extend outward up to 60 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 255 miles.

However, Teddy was also expected to slowly weaken to a Category 2 by the time it approaches Bermuda, according to the hurricane center, “but its wind field is forecast to increase substantially at the same time.”

After 24 hours, the hurricane is forecast to cross cooler waters churned up by Paulette last week. This should cause a slow weakening trend to begin, forecasters said.

From Bermuda, it could head toward Nova Scotia as a powerful extra-tropical cyclone.

The return of Paulette?

Paulette, which struck Bermuda as a Category 2 hurricane last week before rocketing off to colder waters, might make a comeback. As of the 2 p.m. Saturday update, forecasters said the post-tropical cyclone, now a few hundred miles southwest of the Azores, has seen increased shower activity. The system is due to move quickly southward for the next few days and then stall over “marginally” warmer waters.

“The cyclone could redevelop tropical characteristics late this weekend or early next week while it moves little,” forecasters said.

The hurricane center gave Paulette an increased 50% chance of reforming in the next two days and 60% in the next five.

Another tropical wave

The hurricane center is also watching another tropical wave that has yet to roll off the coast of Africa. On Saturday afternoon, forecasters said it had no longer had a chance of developing.