Hurricane season

Weaker Chantal still a tropical storm but likely not for long

Cmorgan@MiamiHerald.comJuly 9, 2013 

Chantal, 11 a.m. EDT, July 10, 2013. National Hurricane Center

Chantal, weakening significantly overnight and barely hanging on as a tropical storm, was expected to gradually dissipate over the next few days into a less dangerous but still wet depression.

A shift in the track also was an encouraging development for flood-prone Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, where heavy rain was still forecast over the next few days but less of it — with two to four inches expected and up to six inches in isolated areas.

Though Chantal could break up into a broad wave after it crosses Cuba, the storm’s remnants promise a wet and windy weekend for South Florida and for much of the state as well.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said that Chantal’s maximum winds had dropped 20 mph overnight to 45 mph. A Hurricane Hunter plane found a small area of circulation, just enough to keep Chantal a tropical storm but forecasters predicted a gradual weakening over the next few days.

Forecasters said wind shear was expected to shred Chantal and the system was moving so fast — 29 mph — that storms had little time to form and wrap around a central core.

A dip in the track to the south and west, skirting the island of Hispaniola and Haiti’s highest peaks, could help the storm hang together longer. But the official forecast still called for Chantal to drop to a depression with 30 mph winds as it crosses Cuba Thursday and Friday. From there, Chantal or what was left of it would race across the Florida Straits toward the Upper Keys and Miami-Dade — but most likely as a mess of thunderstorms not a damaging tropical cyclone.

The center’s forecast cone covers much of the Florida peninsula and extends into the Atlantic Ocean to the edge of the Bahamas, so Chantal’s remnants could either come inland or skirt the coast. Forecasters expect it to dissipate by Saturday off the North Florida coast.

With the storm looking ragged on satellite images, NHC forecasters said Chantal might not last that long: “Chantal will likely dissipate in three days … or perhaps much earlier.’’

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