Orlando Sentinel: By Richard Tribou & Elainie Barraza – With maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, Tropical Storm Earl is forecast to become this hurricane season’s first major hurricane later this week, the National Hurricane Center said in a 9am update on Monday.

The storm resumed a slow northwestward motion near the Virgin Islands Sunday night. Heavy rains and flooding are expected to impact the northern Leeward Islands, US and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico today.

The NHC on Sunday recommended residents in the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Earl, which formed in the Atlantic late Friday.

The storm is located about 190 miles north of St Thomas and is moving north-northwest at about 5 mph.

“A turn toward the northwest with an additional decrease in forward speed is expected Sunday through Monday,” NHC forecasters said.

Forecast models call for Earl to curve away from the US, and the storm is not expected to be a threat for Florida.

“Slow strengthening is possible during the next few days,” the NHC said.

Hurricane Danielle lost some power Saturday and reverted to a tropical storm, but the system became a hurricane again Saturday night. It now has maximum sustained winds of 90 mph and is 1,000 miles away from land in the northern Atlantic Ocean and inching north at 8 mph.

Danielle became the season’s first hurricane on Friday, more than three weeks later than the statistical average of August 11, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s the latest an Atlantic season hurricane has formed since 2013 when Hurricane Humberto formed on September 11.

Forecasters say an area of low pressure could form later this week from a tropical wave near Africa, and gradual development is possible as this system moves generally west-northwestward in the Atlantic.

As of late Sunday, the National Hurricane Center had given it a 40 percent chance of developing over the next five days.

The formation of Danielle and Earl plays catchup since the first three named systems earlier in what was projected to be an above average tropical season. Tropical Storm Colin last fizzled out on July 3.

Typically, the fourth named storm of the year emerges by or before Aug. 15, according to the NOAA. The season runs from June 1-November 30.

The NOAA still predicts an above-average year with 14 to 21 named storms as of an early August forecast. The hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, with the traditional peak of hurricane season running from mid-August to mid-October.

The 2020 hurricane season set a record with 30 named systems, while 2021′s season was the third most active with 21 named systems. An average year calls for 14 named storms.

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