First Potential Tropical System Spotted, May Impact Weekend Sailings

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Nine days before the official start of hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is tracking the first potential disturbance of the season.

While the area of showers is unlikely to develop into an official subtropical or tropical storm, it still bears watching and may have an impact on cruises in the next few days, including over the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The area of showers has formed between Cuba and Haiti and is expected to move northeast in the coming days. While some further development is possible, the system has a less than 10% chance of forming a tropical cyclone over the next week.

Tropical System
Tropical System (Credit: NOAA)

“An area of low pressure is expected to form within this system a few hundred miles north of Hispaniola in the next day or so. Environmental conditions are not expected to be conducive, however, some slight tropical or subtropical development is possible while the low moves northeastward through the weekend,” the forecast noted at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 23.

The poor weather does not have to become a full-blown tropical storm or hurricane to impact cruises. Guests sailing to the Dominican Republic, Grand Turk, or toward the Eastern Caribbean in the next few days may have rougher seas than expected.

Depending on the size of the rough area, ships as far away as Puerto Rico or The Bahamas might also experience some extra motion. If that motion comes from specific directions, it may be impossible for ships to use tenders or water shuttles, or to dock at certain destinations if the port orientation does not provide sufficient shelter for safe navigation.

If the rough weather stays to the northern area of its projected range of motion, sailings to Bermuda may also be impacted. A narrow harbor and adjacent coral reefs make docking in Bermuda a challenge under the best conditions, and the port is often cancelled if winds or waves are too strong for safe docking.

Cruises offering Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas, or Bermuda sailings in the next few days may have some minor impact from this storm system, though significant impacts are unlikely.

Based on the current location of the rough weather and its forecast direction of movement, there should be no impacts to any US homeports.

New Hurricane Season Prediction Released

The formation of this area of rough weather interest comes on the same day that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its first 2024 hurricane season prediction.

While the timing of the release and the first colorful X on the NHC map is purely coincidental, it does support the prediction of an above-normal season of storm activity.

NOAA is predicting 17-25 named storms this year, with 8-13 becoming official hurricanes and 4-7 developing into major, potentially catastrophic storms. It should be noted, however, that this prediction does not indicate any probability of where, when, or even if storms make landfall throughout the season.

Cruise Ships in Storm
Photo Credit: Dee Browning / Shutterstock

This first system that is being watched is not yet even officially a tropical depression, and is far from being considered the first full-fledged storm of the season.

Over the last few years, the first systems have historically formed in late May or early June, making today’s first storm right on schedule. In 2022, the first storm formed on June 5. In 2023, the first storm became official on June 2, though a January 2023 storm was later re-evaluated and classified as a subtropical storm.

The first storm dates in other recent seasons are as follows: May 22 (2021), May 16 (2020), May 20 (2019), and May 25 (2018).

Read Also: How a Hurricane Could Affect Your Cruise

Any cruise travelers with plans to sail during hurricane season – June 1 through November 30 – should stay alert to weather forecasts and tropical storm or hurricane developments. Remaining flexible with cruise expectations is essential, as ports of call, routes, and overall itineraries can and undoubtedly will be adjusted throughout the season.

Cruise lines always keep safety as their top priority, and any adjustments will be made with the safety and comfort of guests, crew members, and port communities in mind at all times.

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