TAMPA – The first named Atlantic storm of the year could form by Wednesday, forecasters said, as an area of low pressure churns about 500 miles southwest of Bermuda.
The National Hurricane Center said the area of disturbed weather has a 30 percent chance of forming what would be called Alex.
Forecasters do not expect the storm to hit land as it drifts to the north and northwest over the next few days, although some models predict tropical storm strength winds could reach the Carolinas.
The low pressure area has winds a bit below 40 mph, close to the threshold for becoming a tropical or subtropical storm and being named.
A subtropical storm’s strongest winds are far from the center of circulation. A tropical storm’s strongest winds ring the center.
The strongest winds around the disturbed weather are to the north and east of the center.
The low pressure is expected to come several hundred miles from North Carolina before drifting back into the Atlantic and away from land. It will cross cooler water as it drifts north, reducing its chances of growing beyond tropical storm strength.
The system is expected to remain hundreds of miles from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill but could have an effect on its spread.
Winds moving counter-clockwise around the low pressure could stretch into the Gulf, blowing from the north and push more oil toward the loop current, a river of warm water that heads south to the Florida Keys and up the state’s east coast.
The weather system’s effect on the oil depends on how close it comes to North Carolina, meteorologists said.