For those of you who are ready to call the 2005 hurricane season closed, don't be so quick to put away your tracking charts. Tropical Storm Epsilon has defied the models and drifted to the southeast despite a forecast for northeast motion. This has brought Epsilon over warm waters reported to be 76-77 degrees Fahrenheit by buoys in the area. Epsilon has used this warmer water to strengthen to near hurricane strength. The 4PM EST advisory lists Epsilon with sustained winds of 70 mph and a central pressure of 990 mb. Any additional burst of convection would likely push Epsilon up to hurricane strength. The center of circulation is now located 700 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and is moving to the southeast near 6 mph.
Infrared and visible satellite imagery both show Epsilon to have a large, ragged eye about 30 nautical miles across. The storm's banding remains broken which is causing Dvorak satellite measurements to underestimate the true intensity of the storm. The computer models remain in excellent agreement that within the next day Epsilon should turn northwest and pass out to sea. However, none predicted its latest southward drift. If this motion continues, the storm could eventually threaten the Azores. Within a couple days Epsilon should be over cooler waters and weakening will begin.
If Epsilon does become a hurricane on Thursday, it would not be the first December hurricane on record. In 1887, a weak hurricane traversed the Atlantic on December 7-12. In 1925 an unnamed hurricane formed on December 1 from an existing tropical storm and struck Florida. Ironically, it was only the second tropical storm of the entire year. From December 30, 1954, to January 6, 1955, Hurricane Alice 2 (yes, 2, it was the second Alice that season) crossed the Caribbean. December 12-24, 1984 saw Hurricane Lili cruise through the Atlantic, and in 1998, Hurricane Nicole hung around for part of the the first day of December.