Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to become a hurricane as it heads toward Europe

tropical storm hurricane opheliaNational Hurricane Center

Tropical Storm Ophelia is the latest weather system to whip up winds and rain in the Atlantic. But the storm seems to be heading east towards the coast of Spain instead of crossing the Atlantic towards the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean.

Ophelia already looks like a hurricane on satellite images, according to the National Hurricane Center, and will almost certainly be upgraded to hurricane status by some point today or tomorrow.

Right now, Ophelia is moving east at about 3 mph and is expected to gradually turn northeast by Thursday night. Its sustained wind speeds are currently 70 mph with higher gusts.

Some of Ophelia's rain bands are likely to hit the Azores islands over the weekend. Ophelia's path then takes it fairly close to Spain and Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula, but current forecasts suggest the storm will most likely remain offshore. It's still early, though, and the exact path could change.

Only two known storms have hit the Iberian Peninsula - one in 1842 and the tropical depression that Hurricane Vince dissipated into in 2005.

After moving past Spain, forecasters expect Ophelia to come quite close to the Irish coast as a strong storm on Monday.

hurricane tormenta opheliaNOAA

Assuming Ophelia's wind speeds pick up as expected, this would be the tenth consecutive storm to reach hurricane strength in the Atlantic this season. That ties the record for most consecutive hurricane-strength storms in the Atlantic Basin. The other years with ten consecutive hurricanes are 1878, 1886 and 1893.

(There are a few caveats to that record, however, as Weather Channel meteorologist Brian Donegan recently wrote: A streak-disrupting tropical storm could easily have been missed in those 19th-century years, and this season's Hurricane Lee might get re-evaluated to count as two different storms.)

There have been 15 named storms so far this hurricane season including Ophelia. That stat - combined with the number of major hurricanes we've seen and the overall cyclone energy generated by the storms - make this an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season by NOAA's standards.

There's probably more to come, since hurricane season continues until November 30.

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