Satellite shot of 97L
There has been a noticeable increase in shower and thunderstorm activity associated with the disturbance in the NW Caribbean Sea over night. This makes sense due to the light winds aloft and very warm waters below the area of low pressure. Now the question is – will this trend continue?
For the most part, it looks like it will and we should see a tropical depression form from the system over the next day or so. This is in agreement with almost all of the intensity guidance. But just how strong the system gets over the weekend remains in question with most of the global model guidance suggesting “not very”. The main limiting factor appears to be what would amount to quite a bit of shear tearing the would-be storm apart. However, there is a chance that it could be moving with the flow enough to mitigate some of this shear and strengthen more than the global models indicate.
Also, the models show a fairly small tropical cyclone and those are very hard to predict intensity-wise. This is where the finer resolution models such as the GFDL and HWRF might help although they tend to over-do things more often than not.
For now, the disturbance, or 97L as it is also known in the weather world, should move towards the Yucatan peninsula today, spreading periods of heavy rain and gusty winds. This should clear out by later tomorrow as the system moves in to the southern Gulf of Mexico. From there, a general track towards the north and eventually northeast seems plausible with impacts reaching parts of the Gulf Coast by some time Friday and lasting through the weekend.
There is a good chance that we will see a lot of rain from this system as indicated by some of the model guidance. It also looks like would could be TS Karen at that time may slow down – further adding to the rain threat for some portion of the Gulf Coast.
With it being the weekend and a lot of football and other outdoor activities slated to take place, I know people are wondering exactly where this potential storm might track. As of this morning, the focus of most of the reliable track guidance indicates the western Florida panhandle to as far west as Alabama, maybe Mississippi. As I mentioned, the models show a small tropical cyclone, not the typical large system that folks are used to seeing such as Ivan. Thus the impacts will be confined to a smaller area, making it more difficult to determine who will see what and when.
The bottom line here is that there is potential for a tropical storm to develop in the Gulf of Mexico this weekend with some impacts to the Gulf Coast there after. I think the main issue will be heavy rain but it is possible that other impacts such as wind and its related effects will also be of concern. Obviously, seas will be rough and in typical flood-prone areas, storm surge flooding may be a consideration as well. However, the relatively small size should limit the amount of surge with this particular system. I am more concerned with the threat of flooding from too much rain – something we’ll need to keep a close watch on.
If trends continue and it looks like 97L will in fact develop, then I will head down to the Gulf Coast with colleague Mike Watkins for local coverage and reporting. This will be a good opportunity for us to test out some of our new technology without having to worry too much about the storm itself. I will be talking with Mike later this morning to determine our plan and will post an update here early this afternoon.
M. Sudduth 7:50 AM ET Oct 2