Tropical Storm Chantal, the the third storm of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, formed Sunday night at 11 about 1,500 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. The storm is headed west-northwest into the eastern Caribbean and has prompted local governments to issue tropical storm watches and warnings for the islands as well as Puerto Rico.
The National Hurricane Center projects that this storm will move through the islands as a minimal tropical storm with gusty winds and heavy rain squalls on Tuesday afternoon. The storm is then projected to move west-northwest south of Puerto Rico making its first landfall near the Haiti/Dominican Republic border as a very strong tropical storm; near hurricane strength.
Chantal has a very tough road to hoe ahead of her. The environmental conditions in the eastern Caribbean Sea are not conducive for significant development. There is an abundance of dry air out ahead of the system and strong upper-level shear (winds) that will prohibit rapid intensification.
If and only if the storm holds together, it is likely that the island of Hispaniola will disrupt the circulation of Chantal so severely, that there may not be much left of it by the time it re-emerges into the Atlantic near the Turks and Caicos islands as a minimal tropical storm; perhaps even just a depression.
Here's where the forecast becomes tricky. There is a very strong Bermuda high to the north of the system that is driving it west-northwest. However, there will be a short-wave trough (a storm system) that will move off the eastern seaboard in about 4 days that may cause a weakness in the ridge allowing Chantal (or what's left of it) to turn northwest and eventually north. Where that turn takes place makes a big difference whether Florida will feel a direct impact from this system.
The current forecast calls for the storm to gradually turn north near 75 degrees west (Miami is 80 degrees west) and then head up the east coast of Florida towards our backyards.
Let it be clear that the National Hurricane Center, the computer models and us here at Channel 4 are not anticipating this being a storm of significance. At this time, we are only anticipating an increase in rain chances by next weekend. There is a long time between now and the weekend and of course things can and will change. It would be prudent at this time to review your hurricane plans, check supplies and know your evacuation routes just in case things take a drastic turn which at this time is not anticipated.