The sixth named system of the young Atlantic hurricane season formed Thursday afternoon just east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Tropical Storm Fay breaks the record for earliest sixth named storm in the Atlantic basin by almost two weeks.
The biggest impact will be very heavy rainfall moving northward through Friday night along the East Coast from Virginia to New England.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for coastal New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and Connecticut. Flood watches have also been posted up and down the coast from Virginia to Massachusetts.
In a 5 p.m. Thursday advisory, the National Hurricane Center said the system it has been monitoring for several days has now acquired enough tropical characteristics to be officially called a tropical storm. This means that the circulation is sufficiently wound up and that enough thunderstorms have focused near the core to meet the criteria.
Fay has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and it is moving north at 7 mph. This will take the center of the tropical system to New Jersey, brushing near Philadelphia, and New York City on Friday, then on into the interior Northeast and New England Friday night and early Saturday.
The storm will generally miss Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to the east with only a little rain expected there.
The storm is very compact but contains a lot of moisture. As a result, torrential rain will fall from the Delmarva Peninsula northward into upstate New York. In the heavy tropical bands, rainfall will surpass 2 inches per hour.
With saturated ground in spots due to recent heavy rain around Philadelphia and New York City, flash flooding is expected to occur. In total, about 2 to 4 inches is expected, but some pockets will pick up as much as 6 inches of rain. The darkest shades of red below indicate 4 to 6 inches of rainfall through Friday night.
With sea surface temperatures along its path barely at warm enough levels to support a tropical storm, and with its proximity to land and increasing forward motion, the system is not likely to become very strong. However, wind gusts over 50 mph are possible along the New Jersey and Long Island coast.
The orange shading below indicates gusts of 50 to 60 mph. This may be strong enough to knock down a few trees and for spotty power outages.
Already off to a rapid start, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is threatening to be one of the most active in history.
Colorado State University released an updated seasonal forecast Tuesday increasing its projection of the total number of named storms from 16 to 20 — a large jump. (Normal is 12.) If 20 occur, that would tie for the second most active season in terms of storm number. The CSU forecast also calls for nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes, both above normal.
There are three main reasons for the expected active season. In the Pacific Ocean a weak La Niña may form, which typically is associated with more activity in the Atlantic Ocean. Also, rainfall across northwest Africa has been far above normal. Lastly, and most important, water temperatures in the Atlantic are far above normal, providing more fuel for growing storms.