Will the US East Coast escape a direct hit from Hurricane Maria?
AccuWeather reports while Maria still has the potential to wander close to the United States, the core of the hurricane is most likely to remain offshore through next week.
Maria already turned on a more northerly course near the Turks and Caicos on Friday. From its position on Friday morning, Maria was about 650 miles southeast of Miami and was on the same parallel as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, or approximately 70 degrees west longitude.
Confidence continues to grow that Maria will not make landfall on the U.S. mainland, according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
Since Maria will be moving over waters churned up and cooled by Jose in recent days, its strength may be capped near Category 3 hurricane status. A Category 3 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 111-129 mph (178-208 km/h).
“Maria should be steered on a general northerly course this weekend into the start of next week,” Kottlowski said. “This northerly path is likely to be followed by a northeasterly turn.”
While some westward movement is still expected of the hurricane into next week, a slightly curved path should roughly bring the core of Maria about halfway between Bermuda and North Carolina on Tuesday.
During the middle to latter part of next week, steering winds may weaken enough to slow the forward speed of Maria. It is during this time when Maria may attempt to drift farther west and may cause some rain and gusty winds to reach the North Carolina Outer Banks.
The overall diameter of the storm will also determine how far away from the center tropical storm and hurricane conditions extend as well as outer rain bands.
During its encounter with Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria weakened but grew in size. Some additional change in structure and increase in size may occur as the hurricane moves northward into progressively cooler waters.
Should Maria fail to slow its forward speed during the middle of next week, then it would be an indication that steering winds are going to whisk the hurricane in a northeasterly direction, well offshore of the U.S.
In the absence of Maria, a non-tropical storm will bring showers and thunderstorms to the mid-Atlantic and New England later next week. This storm system will mark an end to the August-like conditions and bring much cooler and less humid air to the region.
“It is this non-tropical storm that is most likely to help sweep Maria on a northeasterly path late next week,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Evan Duffey.
“Only if that non-tropical storm is slow to reach the Eastern states would the hurricane have a greater chance of being pulled into the mid-Atlantic states or New England.”
Maria to bring dangerous surf, hazardous seas along Atlantic Seaboard
Even if Maria takes the most likely path just offshore of the U.S., seas, surf and rip currents will increase from south to north along the Atlantic Seaboard this weekend through next week.
People heading to the beach should avoid going into the water. Most beaches are not watched over by lifeguards this time of the year.
Small craft should exercise caution when venturing outside of intercostal waterways.
All land and sea interests throughout the western Atlantic from the U.S. to Canada and Bermuda should closely monitor the progress of Maria through next week. A shift in track to the west or east by 100 miles could bring hurricane conditions to some coastal locations.
The risk of dangerous seas and surf includes the islands of Bermuda and the Bahamas. Swells will continue to propagate outward hundreds of miles from the hurricane.
By Alex Sosnowski, Senior Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com