Spring, Texas – It’s not a secret. The hurricane season is about to become very active, and Texas could see a storm early next week if the weather models have their say.
While we are still 17 days from the climatological peak of hurricane season, Sept. 10, the tropics are teaming with activity. As it currently stands, there are three areas of concern as outlined by the National Hurricane Center. Two areas far out in the central and western Atlantic that pose no immediate threat to the U.S., and the third area, the area we will be discussing, in the Caribbean Sea approaching Central America that could become the next tropical system to affect the U.S. The National Hurricane Center is giving this system a 60% chance of development over the next 5 days.
How do we know a storm might be in the Gulf soon when there currently isn’t a system designated? Great question! We’ll try to keep the answer short and sweet.
Basically, upper level conditions and atmospheric instability combine to generate clusters of showers and storms in association with tropical waves moving westward across the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. As they move west, they will continue to intensify and congeal until a surface low pressure area forms. From there, the convergence of air at the surface causes more showers and storms to develop and begin rotating around the surface low. As soon as the surface low becomes centralized and “closed” we have a depression. The more intense the storms are, the lower the pressure and the faster the winds rotate around the surface low. Faster winds eventually lead to a system being designated as a tropical storm (39-73 mph) or hurricane (74 mph or greater).
The weather models pick up on these conducive conditions for tropical development and when a tropical wave is present they can simulate the atmospheric motions that result in tropical development. Is it guesswork? Not really, these models are taking into account the physics of the atmosphere and are fed with detailed real-time data to generate the forecasts. So for the last several days now the major global models have detected development in the western Caribbean Sea and show this development crossing the Yucatán peninsula and either 1) going into the central/southern Gulf of Mexico or 2) into the Bay of Campeche. After that, depending on where the system is situated, the models take it as far south as the border of Texas and Mexico or as Far East as Louisiana INCLUDING all points in between. Southeast Texas is included in this broad zone of potential impact.
SUMMARY (of the above):
The weather models have consistently shown tropical development later this week in the Western Caribbean which then moves Northwest into the Gulf by the weekend, and eventually impacts an area between the border of Texas and Mexico all the way to Louisiana.
Where this system goes is highly uncertain at this point as is how strong it will be when it gets to where it’s going.
Current thinking has a system in the Gulf by this weekend and potentially making landfall as a designated tropical depression or tropical storm between Monday and Tuesday next week. Therefore, we are just under a week out. Plenty of time to monitor and prepare.
This is the part that is much more uncertain. We don’t know how strong of a system we might be dealing with. Depending on where it crosses the Yucatán and it’s organization prior to doing so, it could still be an open wave as it gets in the Gulf, conversely it has the potential to be a tropical storm as it enters the Gulf. If it emerges into the Gulf as a tropical storm with deep convection (storms) around the center, we can probably anticipate some strengthening, rapid strengthening cannot be ruled out either. The Gulf is plenty warm and the atmospheric conditions should be in place to allow strengthening. A hurricane is not off the table.
The other situation is that the system has not developed a closed center of low pressure and emerges into the Gulf needing a day or two to organize in which case a depression or tropical storm is about as strong as it can get unless it moves slower and/or rapidly intensified.
Either way, all tropical systems are intense rainmakers and should not be discounted in either scenario. The two most deadly phenomenon with hurricanes and tropical storms are flooding and storm surge.
Just 4 years ago we watched a weak-looking tropical storm develop into a monster as it moved from the Bay of Campeche to make its first landfall as a category 4 hurricane near Rockport, Tx. That hurricane was hurricane Harvey. The worst hurricane to hit Texas in decades and the storm responsible for the worst flooding to ever impact the Houston Metro area.
Whatever this system ends up being…keep an eye on it and review your preparedness plans. Once it’s in the Gulf the people in the path will have about two days to make necessary preparations based on the data we have today.
Timing is subject to change as this situation unfolds over the next 3-4 days.
Stay tuned to SpringHappenings.com for the latest developments.