So far, Gordon not strengthening as it closes in on Gulf Coast

Visible satellite image of TS Gordon in the Gulf of Mexico

Visible satellite image of TS Gordon in the Gulf of Mexico

The good news this morning is that Gordon has not strengthened during the overnight hours. The cloud pattern looks a little more organized but reports from recon indicate that the pressure is not falling. That being said, we still have a good 12-18 hours before Gordon makes landfall and plenty of warm water ahead – so it is possible to see some additional intensification.

All in all, the main impacts remain the same: periods of heavy rain, squalls and some coastal storm surge as onshore flow commences later today along the Mississippi coast. The extent of these impacts will obviously depend on whether or not Gordon is able to become better organized and thus strengthen. It is wait and see now and we can do just that via coastal radar.

Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor Florence which remains far away from land areas and is likely to stay that way for the next five days at least. We have plenty of time to watch and see what the steering pattern is for Florence down the road.

Additionally, we have other areas to keep track of as well in the deep tropics, just west of the African coastline. It’s that time of year and this was to be expected, despite the cooler SST profile that was present during the early part of the summer.

I am in Mississippi where I will be reporting on conditions here over the next 24 hours or so. I’ll be placing remote cams and a weather station later this morning to capture what impacts Gordon brings. I’ll post another update here late this afternoon or early evening.

A few showers and some breezes or a possible hurricane in the making?

500 millibar vorticity from the latest GFS model run showing well developed cyclone approaching the Gulf Coast

500 millibar vorticity from the latest GFS model run showing well developed cyclone approaching the Gulf Coast

This has got to be one of the most unusual tropical events I have ever seen. Invest 97L as it has been known for some time now just can’t seem to get over the hump and become a tropical cyclone in the technical sense of the word. It has lacked a well defined low level center as reported by the Hurricane Hunter crew that flew in to check things out personally yesterday. Despite the very classic look to the satellite presentation last evening, the system remained just a well defined tropical wave but not a tropical storm or even a depression.

So what happens now? Well, first of all, remember the computer models showing this going over the Yucatan peninsula today? That’s not going to happen. The center of what ever is forming will pass just to the east of the northern tip of the Yucatan and emerge in to the southern Gulf of Mexico with zero time over land. Perhaps this will be the impetus to allow the formation of a tropical storm later today….not that anyone is necessarily routing for that. But for avid watchers of the tropics, this sure seems to have taken a long time for being so well defined in satellite imagery. Just goes to show the incredible value of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Keesler – without them, we would be errant in calling this a tropical storm over night.

However, what I am worried about it the look to the system in one particular model – the GFS. I know a lot of people adore the Euro or ECMWF and it surely does have its strong points. But for the past couple of days at least, the GFS has shown 97L or Karen-to-be becoming stronger and stronger with each subsequent run. In fact, looking at the 500 millibar vorticity signature, it’s as strong as one would expect when analyzing a hurricane. The reason being – it appears the GFS brings the would-be storm northward with the flow and does not rip it apart with shearing winds – a lot like Wilma in 2005 when it came off the Yucatan and was forecast to be not much more than a category one. Look how that turned out. Ironic that it was an October event, eh? Maybe there is something to that, maybe not.

What I see is the potential for this to become a hurricane and do so right near landfall. I also see where the other model guidance could be just as correct in sending a weak, sheared system with rain and wind but little else. This is why paying attention and being prepared no matter what makes such good sense. While it’s true that upper level winds don’t really look favorable for this to strengthen much, I have to wonder why the GFS shows over and over again that it does in fact strengthen. Even if it is injected with so-called baroclinic energy, kind of like Sandy was but WAY less, it still looks rather strong in the model field right at landfall.

Bottom line – be ready if you live along the Gulf Coast from Mississippi to the Big Bend area of Florida. Keep an eye on this system – there is potential for it to do something few people expected. Odds are, it won’t but odds can change, they often do otherwise nothing would ever happen.

I will be leaving North Carolina for Florida later in the morning to meet up with colleague Mike Watkins. I’ll have the live streaming video going from the HurricaneTrack.com Tahoe the whole way there and back. Hope you can join in from time to time and see/hear what’s up. We’ll rest in Lake City tonight and then plan our course of action for data gathering and on-site reporting tomorrow and through the weekend. Stay tuned, I have a feeling this story has an interesting ending. Only one way to find out…

M. Sudduth 6:20 AM ET October 3

Potential is there for 97L but will that potential be reached or squandered?

97L with decent outflow developed as it heads towards the Gulf of Mexico

97L with decent outflow developed as it heads towards the Gulf of Mexico

Looking only at satellite images of 97L tonight, one would think a tropical storm has formed in the NW Caribbean Sea. Fortunately, we have the Hurricane Hunters who risk their lives to go out and see for sure. They did just that earlier today and found that there was not quite a well defined surface circulation. However, it’s close and it won’t take much for 97L to become tropical storm Karen.

In fact, the upper level outflow pattern is very impressive. Couple this with very warm water underneath the system and it should go on to develop. But should is far different than will. A lot is still unknown about what is called tropical cyclogenesis – a fancy word for the birth of a tropical cyclone. Sometimes we see explosive development when there appears to be little to work with. Other times, the opposite is true and we are left wondering, quite gratefully I might add, why nothing really happened.

In the case of 97L, the potential is there for it to become a tropical storm and perhaps a hurricane. I need only cite past experience to say that without laughing as I do not say things like that without meaning them. Intensity forecasting is where there is the least amount of skill. There have been plenty of times when a storm or hurricane fell way short of forecasts and plenty of time when they exceeded the forecasts and shocked us all. In this case, it is likely that what ever forms will be weak, sheared and no major issue for the Gulf Coast. On the other hand, I can see where there is the slightest of chance that the shear is not as bad and the would-be storm lines up just right, moving with the flow to allow it to deepen and cause some real problems along the coast.

This is why it is so important to be informed and not just dismiss something because it looks like no big deal right now. For the time being, it is an issue for part of the Yucatan and western Cuba as bands of rain pass through. Over the next few days, it will enter the Gulf and could bring heavy rain, rough seas and the chance for high winds to some portion of the region. As for how strong and exactly where, that part of the plot has yet to be written.

So, let’s find out together, shall we? Tomorrow morning, on the off chance that this does become a strong tropical storm or a hurricane even, I am going to head to Florida where I will meet up with long-time colleague Mike Watkins. We will then provide our audience with live real-time coverage of what ever happens this weekend along the Gulf Coast. We’ll stream live on our Ustream channel or right on the HurricaneTrack.com homepage. You may also follow along in our app which is available for iOS devices AND Android. It’s called Hurricane Impact and is easy to find. Just go to the App Store or Google Play and search “Hurricane Impact”. You’ll know the logo when you see it. We’ll post frequent video blogs along the way to keep you informed no matter where you are. We’ll also set up one weather station somewhere along the coast to provide live weather data and a live cam image to the app. And, if conditions warrant, we will set out the special Surge Cam which sends a live image to the app right from the water – where the surge and wave action is expected to be the highest. Hurricane Impact – get it now and we’ll keep you posted like no other app can.

I’ll have another update here in the morning and then will switch over to our live coverage. I should be on the road by 10am ET heading from North Carolina down to Lake City, Florida to meet up with Mike. We’ll see what happens over night.

M. Sudduth 9:20 PM ET Oct 2

Weak area of low pressure to bring rain to parts of Gulf Coast

Weak low pressure to bring periods of heavy rain to parts of the Gulf Coast

Weak low pressure to bring periods of heavy rain to parts of the Gulf Coast

There is a surface trough draped over portions of the Gulf of Mexico today that is likely to organize just enough so that low pressure forms and heads towards the northern Gulf Coast. It looks to be a very weak feature but it has the potential to drop a lot of rain over the next couple of days.

The NHC has outlined an area around the southern Gulf of Mexico for potential development. Fortunately, upper level winds are not very favorable and are not expected to improve much in the coming days. This will limit the strengthening process for the low pressure area and thus keep it quite weak.

However, heavy rain is a good bet from the west coast of Florida (the peninsula) over to and across the panhandle. Large clusters of showers and thunderstorms will move from south to north out of the Gulf, dumping several inches of rain when all is said and done.

Also, there will be an increase in winds and seas as the low takes shape and with this being a big boating week, people need to be cautious while out on the water. Some of the thunderstorms could bring waterspouts with them as well. All in all, the next couple of days will be off-and-on nasty for parts of the northeast Gulf Coast region.

The remainder of the Atlantic Basin is nice and quiet this week and I expect things to remain that way for a while. None of the global computer models indicate any significant development over the next week at least.

In the east Pacific, hurricane Dalila will continue to move away from Mexico and will eventually die out over cooler water.

The NHC is also watching invest area 97-E for potential development. Most model guidance shows this system tracking closer to the Mexican coastline in the coming days. This could mean an increase in rain chances along Pacific Mexico as the week wears on.

I’ll have more here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth