“Zombie” Tropical Storm Paulette Rises From the Grave

Hedy Phillips
Updated Mar 2, 2021
5 min read

This hurricane season continues to be relentless. Tropical disturbance after tropical disturbance keeps circling in the Atlantic Ocean, some worse than others. And then there are some tropical storms and hurricanes that you think have gone away, only to see them come back again. Such is the case with tropical storm Paulette. 

Tropical storm Paulette, which is being referred to as a “zombie” tropical storm because she returned from the dead, was thought to be gone, but she’s not. The National Weather Service begrudgingly welcomed the storm back on Sept. 22. However, she’s continued to weaken over the past two days and will hopefully not cause any trouble on land in the coming days. 

Paulette’s Original Path

Paulette originally formed in early September and was part of the storm system that saw five tropical disturbances in the Atlantic Ocean all at one time. It was a category 1 hurricane when it hit Bermuda on Sept. 14, wreaking havoc on the island nation. As it damaged Bermuda, it became a Category 2 hurricane but eventually downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone as it moved back into the Atlantic on Sept. 16. 

She continued to move north as other tropical disturbances swirled around the Atlantic as well. During that very same week, Paulette was mingling with Teddy, Rene, Sally, and Vicky. As more and more storms formed in the Atlantic — so many that they’ve actually run out of names for them and are currently using letters of the Greek alphabet instead — Paulette continued to move north. However, the storm continued to weaken as it moved north, seemingly dying out for good.

How Paulette Came Back

Typically when a tropical disturbance moves north into colder waters, they "die”, according to NBC News. Hurricanes are formed when a low-pressure area forms over warm water. These disturbances are fed by the water vapor, and as it builds, the disturbance can build into a tropical depression, tropical storm, or hurricane. The warmth is what keeps it going, which is why these tropical disturbances usually die down as they move north into cool water since there isn’t enough heat to evaporate the water into vapor to feed the disturbance and eventually it stops swirling and peters off into some wind and rain and then eventually nothing.

Of course, that’s not what happened to Paulette. NBC News reported, “Paulette bumped into a high-pressure trough in the mid-Atlantic that pushed the storm south, where it encountered warm water that enabled it to re-form as a tropical storm.” Paulette became a tropical storm again earlier this week as it moved back southward and to the east. As the storm strengthened, it moved toward the Azores off the coast of Portugal, giving her a lifespan of about 10 days already.

Will Paulette Be a Threat?

It looks like, at this point, Paulette shouldn’t make landfall anywhere. NBC News reported that the tropical storm had already started to weaken by midweek and was expected to be nothing more than a remnant low by week’s end, meaning it is no longer convective. And with sustained winds below 34 knots, she has also ceased from being a cyclone.

That being said, experts thought just a week ago that she had dissipated to nothing as she moved north, so it’s still premature to write her off completely. She could go through another weird weather pattern that causes her to pick up speed again and take a turn toward land. As of now, though, she’s on target to stay in the Atlantic and fizzle out there. Populated areas shouldn’t expect to feel much from this storm, however, there’s always the chance that the wind and rain can reach land or cause larger waves depending on how close it runs to any beaches.

There should be no more damage like what Bermuda experienced when Paulette first formed. When Paulette connected with land in Bermuda, it mostly just caused land damage and knocked out power in many places. It quickly moved back out to the water, though it did leave some lasting damage that will take time to clear. 

The Bottom Line

Yes, Paulette did indeed return from the dead, but experts don’t think she’ll be causing any more damage with this second wind. Though she stormed through Bermuda as a hurricane just two weeks ago, she’s weakened to a tropical storm and is expected to fizzle out in the Northern Atlantic soon. Unless the storm encounters unforeseen influences, it should not last much longer.

Photo by Tetra Images / GettyImages

Contributing Writer

Hedy Phillips

Hedy Phillips is a freelance journalist who has covered home security, safety, and other topics for Safety.com, MSN, Yahoo, Cosmopolitan, and InStyle.

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