Tropical Storm Selma forms in the Pacific, heads for El Salvador

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Tropical Storm Selma formed over the Pacific Ocean on Friday, U.S. forecasters said, prompting a tropical storm warning for the entire coast of El Salvador. Residents in Guatemala are also advised to monitor developments.

As of 7 a.m. CT on Friday, the center of the storm was located about 335 kilometers (210 miles) south of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. Selma has maximum sustained winds near 65 kilometers (40 miles) per hour with gusts up to 83 kilometers (52 miles) per hour.

“This is a rare location for a tropical storm to form in the eastern Pacific, and this is the only the second tropical storm to form on record east of 90W that didn’t come from an Atlantic cyclone,” said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

A weak ridge of high pressure over southeastern Mexico is causing Selma to move slowly towards the northwest, but this pattern is expected to change when the ridge breaks down later on Friday, which will cause Selma to move towards the north over the weekend.

Selma is currently forecast to make landfall in El Salvador on Saturday afternoon, prompting a tropical storm warning for the entire coastline. But Blake cautioned that there is a “low confidence” in the forecast as some models suggest that the storm could move further to the west.

“A tropical storm watch or warning could be required for portions of the coast of Guatemala later today,” he said.

Selma is expected to remain over very warm waters with only light-to-moderate shear in its path, which should promote further strengthening as it moves closer to land. That said, Selma is not forecast to become a hurricane.

“It should be emphasized, however, that the most significant hazard expected with Selma is heavy rainfall,” Blake warned. “Up to 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) of rain are possible over El Salvador and southern Guatemala, which could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.”

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