Oct. 20 — Tropical Storm Epsilon, the 26th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, strengthened on Tuesday as sustained wind speeds climbed to 60 mph as of 2 p.m. EDT.
The storm also began moving, to the north-northwest and had picked up forward speed to 12 mph, after remaining stationary for most of the day on Monday, prompting the Bermuda Weather Service to issue a tropical storm watch for Bermuda.
For the second time in recorded history, the Atlantic Basin has spawned a tropical storm named Epsilon on Monday. Tropical Depression 27 developed Monday morning about 700 miles southeast of Bermuda, and within 3 hours, it had strengthened into the 26th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
When will it reach hurricane force and where is it headed? Forecasters say it could strengthen further perhaps reaching hurricane strength as it slowly heads north and then northwest toward Bermuda.
The latest indications are for the storm and the hurricane-force winds forecast near its core to stay east of the islands with tropical-storm conditions anticipated. However, a shift in the track farther to the west by as little as a few dozen miles could put the eye wall and its damaging winds and torrential rain over the islands.
With Epsilon developing and another system possibly in the offing later this week, this season is rapidly closing in on the record of 28 named storms set in 2005 — the only other year to use the Greek alphabet to name storms.
The only other Epsilon in history was an unusually late storm, and it formed just before the official end of hurricane season on Nov. 30 in the open Atlantic Ocean on Nov. 29, 2005. It went on to strengthen into Hurricane Epsilon on Dec. 2. By the time winds subsided back below hurricane strength on Dec. 7, it had become the longest-lived December hurricane on record.
Epsilon formed in 2020 over a month earlier than the previous record holder. Now, only one Greek letter, Zeta, that has been used before to name a tropical system will remain on the list for the next tropical storm that brews. After that, should storms continue to form through the end of the year, it would be uncharted territory.
“Epsilon will likely be a hurricane by the time it reaches waters near Bermuda,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Rob Miller said.
The current forecast would bring a glancing blow to the nation, with tropical-storm-force winds (39-73 mph), gusts and occasional downpours from the outer bands of the system.
“In this scenario, damage and adverse impacts would likely be isolated, but some downed tree limbs and power lines as well as localized street and poor drainage flooding would remain possible,” Miller said.
However, AccuWeather meteorologists warn that residents should still prepare for the worst.
“It’s still possible that the system tracks a little farther south and west and makes a direct hit on Bermuda as a hurricane,” Miller warned.
Back in mid-September, Hurricane Paulette ended up making a direct hit on the island as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Paulette became the first storm to make landfall in Bermuda since Hurricane Gonzalo on Oct.17, 2014.
Paulette ended up causing an island-wide power outags and disruptions to commerce and government that lasted for days.
“For a small island like Bermuda out in the middle of the ocean, small changes in the track, size and intensity of a storm can all have a big effect on the impacts,” Miller said.
“The time to make preparations is now, before you realize a dangerous storm is in fact bearing down on you and it’s too late.”
The fall of 2014 was also the last and only time that Bermuda endured two direct hits from hurricanes in the same season, when Hurricane Fay made landfall in Bermuda less than a week before Gonzalo.