Weakening Hurricane Jose could graze Massachusetts on Wednesday

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A weakened Hurricane Jose could graze the Northeast as Hurricane Maria tears through the Caribbean, gaining strength and possibly heading toward the U.S. in a week.

Jose will probably be downgraded to a tropical storm as it comes close to Massachusetts Wednesday — threatening shipping and real estate along the East Coast — before veering farther out into the Atlantic, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Storm watches have been posted from Delaware to Massachusetts.

The two storms build on a devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, coming just after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left dozens of people dead and upended energy and agriculture markets. Since Aug. 25, the U.S. has suffered an estimated $143 billion in damage from Texas flooding caused by Harvey and damage to Florida by Irma, according to Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.

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Some models bring Jose “very close to Nantucket and Cape Cod, but it is not going to be a very powerful hurricane at that point,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist with Weather Underground in Boulder, Colorado. “The biggest implication will be multiple days of big surf and probably beach erosion.”

In the Caribbean, Maria is growing in power and will hit some of the islands wrecked by Irma about two weeks ago, along with others. It could strike Puerto Rico as a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday. Jose and Maria are two of 13 named Atlantic storms this season, which has so far killed at least 100 people. The average year produces 12 storms.

If the estimates hold, this will be the second most costly year for hurricane damage since 1980 behind 2005, when a record 28 storms formed in the Atlantic and Katrina devastated New Orleans, according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina.

Not including the hurricanes, the U.S. has suffered nine weather and climate disasters costing $1 billion or more through the first seven months of 2017, the agency said.

Jose’s track north could disrupt vessels carrying crude oil, petrochemicals and refined products along the Atlantic seaboard, Shunondo Basu, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance meteorologist and natural gas analyst in New York, said on Friday.

Jose’s maximum sustained winds have decreased to about 85 miles per hour (140 kilometers per hour), the NHC said. The main threat will probably be coastal flooding because its arrival will coincide with the new moon, when tides are at their highest, said Dave Samuel, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

On top of that, Jose could bring as much as 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain across eastern Long Island into Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Henson said Jose will then transform into a hybrid storm, becoming much larger as its strongest winds drift away from its center. This is similar to what happened with Sandy, but there won’t be a repeat of the 2012 storm that caused widespread destruction in New Jersey and New York.

Maria is expected to become a major hurricane by tonight or early Tuesday, the NHC said.

By next week, Maria could become the primary U.S. threat. Much can change before then, and the storm may drift out to sea, Henson said. There’s also a chance it could menace Florida and the U.S. Southeast.

Hurricane warnings are in place for Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique. A watch has been issued for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Maarten, St. Barthelemy, Anguilla, Saba and St. Eustatius.

“Maria is tracking eerily similar of the path Irma took,” AccuWeather’s Samuel said.

Bloomberg’s Dan Murtaugh and Anna Shiryaevskaya contributed.

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