CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Tropical Storm Rafael has now formed, the 17th named storm to develop in the Atlantic basin this year.
The storm formed in an area typically associated with tropical development in the month of October, and wind speeds quickly strengthened to 50 mph. Further strengthening of Rafael is expected over the next couple of days, and the storm is expected to become a hurricane on Monday. While tropical activity begins to decrease in October, storms can still affect the Carolinas this late in the season. Category 4 Hazel caused extensive damage along the North Carolina border with South Carolina in 1954 when it moved ashore.
Rafael won't, however, be impacting the United States. The same frontal boundary bringing rain to us early in the week will keep the storm well away from the East coast.
On average, we expect 12 named storms to develop. We've already exceeded this number, and may still exceed the forecast for 2012. Most long range hurricane forecasts called for 12-17 named storms.
This season, 8 hurricanes have developed, but only one, Michael, became a major hurricane. Two or three major hurricanes were forecast. With each passing day it becomes less likely that conditions will remain favorable for storms this strong, but not impossible.
In terms of numbers, 2012 has so far been a pretty active season, but only Beryl and Isaac have impacted the mainland U.S. Additionally, the season does not officially end for over a month. November 30th marks the end of the Atlantic hurricane season.