Tropical Depression 4-E formed Tuesday, entered the Central Pacific and was reported about 925 miles east of Hawaii island, the National Weather Service said.
As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the tropical depression was 925 miles east of Hilo, moving northwest at 17 mph, with maximum wind speeds of 35 mph, which is just below tropical storm force strength (beginning at 39 mph), the Weather Service said.
If it strengthens, it could become Tropical Storm Ela by Wednesday.
“It doesn’t appear to be much of a concern at this time, but we still need to monitor it closely,” said Jon Jelsema, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
He said there is a “short window of opportunity for some slow strengthening to the system, but we’re not anticipating it to strengthen at all.”
Although the maximum sustained winds with the system could reach 50 mph, “here in the islands we’re not expecting anything more than a moderate, tradewind flow,” he said.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said Tuesday that Air Force “hurricane hunter” planes, part of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based in Biloxi, Miss., were on their way to Hawaii to help forecasters study the storm system.
Forecasters say it is too early to predict the exact path of the system and that if it comes closer to the islands, it could bring stronger wind and heavier rain.
Emergency management officials advise residents to monitor the storm and say it is a good reminder to have supplies and an emergency plan in place during hurricane season.
Dan Kottlowski, a hurricane expert at the private Accuweather service, said that at its present course and speed, the system could begin to produce squalls and swells on Hawaii island Thursday. The sudden weather could catch boaters off guard. Waves and rip currents could increase in strength and number, especially along the east-facing beaches during the latter part of the week.
“How extensive the squalls become and how big the seas get will depend on the size, strength and path of the system,” Kottlowski said.
“We will have to see how quickly the system develops and how big it gets over the next couple of days,” he said.
Ela is the Hawaiian word for ale, according to the Hawaiian Dictionary.