Next storm now organizing in the Atlantic
A big tropical low is getting better organized in the central Atlantic Ocean, and forecasters are giving it a 70 percent chance of becoming the next named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season, sometime in the next 48 hours.
The storm is already kicking up thunderstorms and looks pretty healthy from orbit. Forecasters say conditions in the region are favorable for continued development. If it does reach tropical storm strength, it would become Tropical Storm Ophelia, the 14th named storm of the season.
The count is now approaching the lower end of pre-season forecasts for the number of named storms this season, which ranged from 13 to 16. But hurricane counts remain low. Only three storms have made it to hurricane strength - Irene, Katia and Maria. The major forecasters have predicted at least 6 to 9 hurricanes this season.
Only two of this year's hurricanes reached "major" Cat. 3 strength or higher. Irene was a Cat. 3 storm at sea, but weakened to Cat. 1 at landfall in North Carolina. Katia was a Cat. 4 at sea, but never made landfall until it reached the United Kingdom. Maria was a tropical storm for most of its life, reaching Cat. 1 strength over the open Atlantic, with no U.S. landfall.
Forecasters had predicted at least 3 to 5 of this year's storms would reach Cat. 3 or higher.
The season ends officially on Nov. 30.