June 11, 2003 – It's started. The first of the 2003 hurricane season storms formed Wednesday midway between the Caribbean chain and the Azores. It's been designated Tropical Depression 2.
However, it is not the first storm of the year. A rare pre-season storm, Tropical Storm Ana, formed off the coast of Bermuda in April. Hurricane season officially started on June 1.
The current storm is not well organized and forecasters expect it to dissipate.
Scott Stripling, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, anticipates it will pass south of the Virgin Islands on Sunday as a tropical wave. The territory should get brisk winds of 20 to 25 mph and some scattered to intermittent showers, he said.
Tropical Depression 2 was centered at 9.8 degrees north latitude and 46.7 degrees west longitude on Wednesday afternoon. Sustained winds were 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. The system was moving west at 19 mph but was expected to swing a bit to the northwest.
"If it gets stronger, it could get closer" to the territory, Stripling said. He noted that this is the start of what experts think will be a severe hurricane season.
Forecaster William Gray at Colorado State University predicted on May 30 that 14 named storms will develop. He expects eight to become hurricanes and three to become intense hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or more. The long-term average is 9.6 tropical storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes. Last year saw 12 named storms but only four hurricanes. Two of them were considered intense. None hit the Virgin Islands.
Stripling urged residents to make hurricane season preparations if they haven't already done so.
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