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Friday, June 18, 2021
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Here’s what we know… 90% Chance a Tropical System Will Develop in Gulf Over Next 48 Hours

Spring, Texas – Where’s all the hype from yesterday? Yesterday SE Texas was the bullseye of a tropical system by Saturday with flooding rainfall and all kinds of bad tropical stormy things. What a difference a day makes…here’s what we know today, and while a lot has changed in regards to model guidance on this “to-be-formed” tropical system, not much else has. 

At this time, the broad low pressure area has emerged into the far northeastern area of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately just off the coast of Apalachicola, Florida.  A satellite grab at approximately 8:00 PM CDT showed numerous widespread showers and thunderstorms across the panhandle of Florida continuing east and west as far as Louisiana and across Florida.  It’s a very large, broad, system already.  Approximately the size of Texas in terms of areal cloud extent.  The upper level outflow is already apparent.

Given the very “juicy” environment in the Gulf of Mexico – very warm water (85-89 degrees F) and very low wind shear – the system is expected to develop, potentially quickly, into a tropical depression as early as tomorrow evening or overnight. From there it’s reasonable to expect a named tropical storm by late Thursday night…if so, it will be named Tropical Storm Barry. The National Hurricane Center is giving the system a 90% chance of development into at least a tropical depression within 48 hours. National Hurricane Center graphic and details below.

Of note in the above statement is that “Tropical Storm, Hurricane, and Storm Surge Watches could be required for portions of the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.  This says to me that it may be possible that this system undergoes rapid intensification. Time will tell.  We do not yet have a center of circulation, but the wording is … interestingly strong here.  According to some of the intensification models that came out this evening, a hurricane cannot be ruled out as early as 60 hours from now (2.5 days).  That’s fast.  This is why meteorologists and emergency managers preach preparedness.  

Checking out the latest models…the trend from last night through the day today continues to show a shift eastward towards a Louisiana landfall.  That’s good for Texas and unfortunate for our neighbors in Louisiana.  There are still some caveats to this.  The National Weather Service in Houston did a great job explaining the variables and I don’t want to plagiarize them too much, but basically the eastward shift is being driven by the development of High Pressure over Texas and the SW US.  Depending on the strength of this high pressure, the track of what will be TS Barry or even Hurricane Barry could shift back westward or even further east.  Also, where the center of circulation ultimately develops is key…and we don’t have that yet.  Therefore, the models, while in better agreement today, should be expected to shift as this system organizes tonight and through the day tomorrow. 

While Texans breathe a stunted sigh of relief today, we also should not completely let our guard down yet.  All of you that have been through these before … some of you have been through a bunch … know that they almost take on a mind of their own sometimes and seem to go wherever they please.  In reality, weather is fluid (literally) and constantly moving and changing. We only have so much computing power and modeling capability which is really, really, good, but also still very limited in the grand scheme of the things.  So stay tuned and stay informed.  

Lastly, impacts to Texas depend on several factors including:

  • How far west the system moves.
  • The strength of the system.
  • The size, or extent, of the wind fields.

If Texas ends up on the west side of the system (which seems probable based on current models and trends today), we’ll be on the “cleaner” and drier side of it.  That will help limit rainfall amounts, but we still can expect windy/gusty conditions with winds out of the north as it moves inland.  Wind strength will be determined by landfall location and bullet points above.  If somehow this system makes a move towards SE Texas with a track that the models have not yet indicated today… well…impacts will be worse.  Let’s cover that, if we need to, tomorrow.  For now, we’ll continue to monitor the trends and development.  

If you find yourself stressed by any of this please understand that that was not the intent.  However, use that energy to write down a plan and research what items you should have in an emergency preparedness kit.  Then put the kit together and rest easy knowing that, if you have to make tough decisions this hurricane season, you’ll be ready.

Stay tuned to Spring Happenings for the latest developments on this evolving situation.

Larry Perez
Larry Perez is a native Houstonian/Galvestonian. He graduated in 2007 with his degree in Meteorology from Texas A&M University.
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