Florence just one of three storms threatening the United States

The 5 p.m. Friday forecast of the path of Tropical Storm (soon to be Hurricane) Florence in the Atlantic Ocean. [National Hurricane Center]
The 5 p.m. Friday forecast of the path of Tropical Storm (soon to be Hurricane) Florence in the Atlantic Ocean. [National Hurricane Center]
Published September 7 2018
Updated September 7 2018

Itís been 26 years since three major storms have formed in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and threatened the United States and its territories in both hemispheres and could all make landfall at about the same time.

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In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Florence ó which was a hurricane, and is expected to regain that status by Tuesday ó is taking aim at the east coast.

In the eastern Pacific, Hurricane Olivia is more than 1,600 miles off the coast of Hawaii and is expected to draw close to Honolulu by Wednesday. And in the western Pacific, tropical depression Mangkhut is approaching Guam and has the potential to strengthen into a typhoon.

"Itís weird timing that these far flung parts of the U.S. (and territories) are seeing the potential threat of being hit by hurricanes at the same exact time," said Weather Underground director of meteorology Jeff Masters.

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Of more immediate concern to the Tampa Bay area is Florence. That stormís exact path remains unknown, though the models project it could make landfall anywhere along the southeastern coast, from Florida to North Carolina.

Monday is considered the peak day of hurricane season (it is also the anniversary of Hurricane Irma making landfall in Florida on Sept. 10, 2017.) This year, Masters said, that day also happens to coincide with when ocean waters are at its warmest: "It doesnít happen often but when it does, it can contribute to increased storm activity."

The lack of Madden-Julian Oscillation activity is also a cause of increased storm activity. The oscillation is a disturbance of clouds, rainfall and pressure that circumnavigates the Earth every 30 to 60 days, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The bay area does not appear to be in the path of Florence. However, there are three other storms brewing in the Atlantic: tropical depression eight and nine and Invest 92L.

Meteorologists believe tropical depression nine is the biggest concern for Tampa Bay residents. Itís currently tailing Florence to the southeast and is projected to churn through the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.

Though that storm is about three weeks out, the path itís on is one that generally leads storms to travel through the Gulf of Mexico, posing a potential threat to the bay area. But National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Shiveley said tropical depression nine still has a long way to go.

"It would have to survive a good two and half to three week trek from Africa to America," Shiveley said. "Itís possible but it takes a lot of time for these storms to survive."

Ocean waters have stayed cooler than normal, Shiveley said, especially in Africa. For a while, the Sahara dust was causing it to be drier and have less moisture in the air. But over the past few weeks, thatís shifted causing the season to begin to ramp up.

"Itís still hurricane season and anything can happen," the meteorologist said. "Just make sure your hurricane kits are ready because you never know what turn the storms might make."

Contact McKenna Oxenden at moxenden@tampabay.com. Follow @mack_oxenden

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