Tracking the tropics: Atlantic is an ocean of storms

Positions and tracks for the many storms populating the Atlantic

The images from space tell the story: the Atlantic Ocean is home to a collection of tropical disturbances ranging from clusters of thunderstorms to a raging category 4 hurricane.

Here's a rundown of that forecasters are watching in the tropics:

At 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, the center of Florence is located 575 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina. The storm is packing 130 mph sustained winds and there is a chance for further strengthening as the storm moves closer to the coast. The storm is expected to slow down considerably by late Thursday into Friday, so the chance of historic rainfall is very likely. Hurricane-force winds extend outward to 70 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds out to 175 miles.

Tropical Storm Isaac is much weaker Wednesday morning, with maximum sustained winds at 60 mph. At 5 a.m. Wednesday the center of the storm was 500 miles east of Martinique. The storm is forecast to move west through the weekend with further weakening expected as it moves through the Caribbean. If the weakening trends continue, the storm may not survive long into next week.

Hurricane Helene was located about 800 miles west northwest of the Cabo Verde Islands with sustained winds of 90 mph. It was moving north northwest near 13 mph. A turn to the northwest is expected later today, isolating the storm in the eastern Atlantic and far away from populated areas.

A cluster of showers and thunderstorms in the south-central Gulf of Mexico has not become better organized over the past 24 hours, but it is still of interest to forecasters. The area is forecast to move into more conductive conditions and a tropical depression is likely to form on Thursday or Friday. The tracks take it to the western Gulf Coast. Heavy rainfall and gusty winds are expected across sections of northeastern Mexico, Texas and possibly Louisiana late this week.

Another area several hundred miles west of the Azores is producing large areas of showers and thunderstorms with strong winds. This system could become tropical in nature over the next few days as it meanders over the northeastern Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center gives the area a 50% chance of development over the next five days.

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