For only the second time in recorded history, the Atlantic Basin has spawned a tropical storm named Epsilon. Tropical Depression 27 developed Monday morning about 700 miles southeast of Bermuda, and just three hours later it strengthened into the 26th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) named the system Tropical Storm Epsilon at 11 a.m. EDT Monday and reported its maximum sustained winds were 40 mph. Forecasters say it could strengthen further perhaps reaching hurricane strength as it slowly heads northwest toward the island nation.
"The storm will be nearly stationary over the next day or so before heading slowly northwestward toward Bermuda," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.
"Whether that eventual northwestward track brings the storm west or east of Bermuda is yet to be known. As a result, all interests in Bermuda should pay close attention to the progress of this storm," Miller said.
With Epsilon developing and another system possibly in the offing later this week, this season is rapidly closing in on the record of 28 named storms set in 2005 -- the only other year to use the Greek alphabet to name storms.
The only other Epsilon in history was an unusually late storm, and it formed just before the official end of hurricane season on Nov. 30 in the open Atlantic Ocean on Nov. 29, 2005. It went on to strengthen into Hurricane Epsilon on Dec. 2. By the time winds subsided back below hurricane strength on Dec. 7, it had become the longest-lived December hurricane on record.
Epsilon formed in 2020 over a month earlier than the previous record holder. Now, only one Greek letter, Zeta, that has been used before to name a tropical system will remain on the list for the next tropical storm that brews. After that, should storms continue to form through the end of the year, it would be uncharted territory.
"The system will likely be a hurricane by the time it reaches Bermuda, if it ends up taking a track close enough to the island nation to bring impacts," Miller said.
The current forecast would bring a glancing blow to the nation, with tropical-storm-force (39-73 mph) winds, gusts and occasional downpours from the outer bands of the system.
"In this scenario, damage and adverse impacts would likely be isolated, but some downed tree limbs and power lines as well as localized street and poor drainage flooding would remain possible," Miller said.
Satellite image of Tropical Depression 27 as it strengthened into Epsilon early Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (CIRA/RAMMB)
However, AccuWeather meteorologists warn that residents should still prepare for the worst.
"It's still possible that the system tracks a little farther south and west and makes a direct hit on Bermuda as a hurricane," Miller warned.
This storm could pose many similarities to Hurricane Paulette, which ended up making a direct hit on the island as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale back on Sept. 14. Paulette became the first storm to make landfall in Bermuda since Hurricane Gonzalo did on Oct.17, 2014.
Paulette ended up causing island-wide power outages and disruptions to commerce and government that lasted for days.
"For a small island like Bermuda out in the middle of the ocean, small changes in the track, size and intensity of a storm can all have a big effect on the impacts," Miller said.
"The time to make preparations is now, before you realize a dangerous storm is in fact bearing down on you and it's too late."
The fall of 2014 was also the last and only time that Bermuda endured two direct hits from hurricanes in the same season, when Hurricane Fay made landfall in Bermuda less than a week before Gonzalo.
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