From west to east:

Tropical storm FRED is just over 100 miles south of Pensacola headed more or less due north at around 8 knots. As this had reduced ground speed, it will have more time to deepen before landfall tonight somewhere between Pensacola and Panama City. There is some upper level wind shear across the convection column, so the forecaster who has this earmarked as an eleventh hour hurricane may be disappointed. Nonetheless, this has a little more to say for itself than it did yesterday. The peak hurricane severity index rating has increased to 5 (2 for size and 3 for intensity) which is expected to produce 65 knot winds at landfall with a tropical storm force windfield radius of 90 miles. The worst of the muck and filth will continue to be to the east of the storm centre. After landfall, FRED is expected to dash across southern Alabama, Georgia, and into the Appalachian Mountains producing very heavy rain and localised flooding.

I stuck my neck out yesterday, uncharacteristically early talking up GRACE heading for the Gulf of Mexico and reaching hurricane intensity. That now seems to have gathered support and the professional agencies have now picked up on it, although not yet sharing my fears for intensity. Currently 90 miles south-sou’east of Port Au Prince and deepening, it is likely that this will reach tropical storm intensity later today. Although it seems Haiti will be spared a direct hit, very strong winds, heavy rainfall with flash flooding and mudslides will only pile more misery on desperate earthquake rescue operations. Thereafter GRACE will continue tracking west south of Cuba, impacting the Cayman Islands and Jamaica before entering the Gulf of Mexico later this week through the Yucatan Channel. High pressure across the northern Gulf Coast and northern Gulf of Mexico will probably steer the storm more west than north to cross the northern Bay of Campeche but still with potential impact on the southern offshore leases of the Texas coast. Predicted maximum hurricane severity index ratings are being bandied about but most are more conservative than reliable at the moment.

Maverick Disturbance Thirty One has joined the threat list overnight, deepening to form Tropical Depression Eight and may reach tropical storm force tonight. Steering currents are expected to cause this system to make a bizarre carousel loop around Bermuda this week, passing close enough to bring winds gusting tropical storm force. This erratic storm will not be easy to predict either track or intensity but a weather watch will be needed for Bermuda. The eastern seaboard does not seem to be at risk as things stand today.

Disturbance Thirty is half a day west of the Cape Verde Islands, headed west at 10 knots. Development prospects are slim at the moment.

Stand by for tropical storm force winds along the southern coasts of Hispaniola, Cuba, north-western Florida and Bermuda.

Image Reuters