TROPICAL STORM LIKELY TO FORM IN GULF IN NEXT 48 HOURS; GORGEOUS THURSDAY LOCALLY… An area of low pressure in the western Gulf of Mexico is expected to become a tropical or subtropical storm in the next 48 hours as it moves north and ultimately northeast toward the central Gulf Coast. Local impacts will limited mostly to the heavy rain potential that could set up as early as late Friday but is more likely to happen on Saturday. Before we get to all of that, we have an absolutely stunning Thursday on tap across south Alabama and northwest Florida. High temperatures will peak in the mid-70s today across our region. The coolest day we have had in MONTHS! Other than the passing clouds, we’ll have an abundance of sunshine this afternoon and clear skies tonight. Let’s look at details…
THURSDAY MORNING DISCUSSION ABOUT LOCAL TROPICAL IMPACTS… Confidence is high regarding local impacts. The main question, at this point, concerns the timing of these impacts. Regardless of if this tropical disturbance acquires formal tropical or subtropical characteristics, heavy rain will be likely at times this weekend across our area. This will continue to help mitigate localized drought conditions. The greater chances of rain will clearly happen closer to the immediate Alabama and northwest Florida beach zones. Depending on the exact track of this developing system, there also could be gusty (30-50mph) winds at the immediate coastal areas, isolated tornadoes across the region, and potentially isolated instances of flash flooding. Significant wind issues are not expected for any of our inland areas, as this will likely be a fairly “weak” tropical/subtropical storm. “Weak” is subjective, and there still could be significant impacts closer to the coast, however. Timing is key for all of this and unfortunately, we don’t have a good grip on the specifics of timing until the low-level circulation center actually develops. Impacts may begin as early as Friday night or as late as Saturday night. Local impacts in south Alabama and northwest Florida are MOST likely on Saturday, especially in the P.M. hours. Impacts will be confined locally to heavy rain across the region at times, and gusty winds near the coast.
FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL FORECAST… This forecast will greatly depend on the future track of the tropical system discussed above. If we get more rain and are on the eastern side of the developing area of low pressure (whether it is a tropical storm or not), there is a chance we may have to increase rain chances for the Friday night football games. If, however, we’re on the western side of the system, that would point to a potentially drier solution. For now, we’ll call it a 20-30% chance of showers and storms Friday evening with temperatures in the 65-70° range.
TROPICAL VS. SUBTROPICAL STORM… The best analogy I can give you about the differences in a tropical storm versus a subtropical storm involves vehicles. Think of a tropical storm as a Toyota RAV4. (That is what I drive.) A normal car gets you where you’re going by burning gasoline. Think of a subtropical storm as a hybrid Toyota RAV4. A hybrid vehicle uses additional technology to get better fuel economy, but it is still a car. Both tropical and subtropical storms have pretty much the SAME impacts for coastal areas: Heavy rain, gusty winds, and coastal flooding. The difference is tropical systems have a pure warm core center, while subtropical storms generally don’t (at least at first). It’s a super technical definition, but the big takeaway I want you to remember is that IMPACTS are the same!
MOST LIKELY SCENARIO: TROPICAL STORM MAKING LANDFALL… Anytime we have a tropical system in one of the peak hurricane season months in the Gulf, there is always a chance we could have some surprises in store. Long-time viewers and readers remember the rapid intensification that happened with Hurricane Michael (up to category 5 status right before landfall). Hurricane Opal was also a rapidly intensifying October hurricane. The good news is I am NOT seeing anything to suggest that this system will become a hurricane before landfall. Could that change? Yes, and that’s why we monitor the tropics so intently. However, confidence remains high that this will be a weak or moderate tropical storm at the time of landfall in a few days. The high-end scenario points to a moderate tropical storm. The low-end scenario points to a tropical disturbance with quite a bit of rainfall.
LANDFALL POINT UNCERTAIN… We simply don’t know just yet where the low-level center of this tropical or subtropical storm will form, thus we can’t give a good estimation of where landfall will happen. The latest model guidance suggests landfall will happen somewhere between Morgan City, Louisiana eastward to Cedar Key, Florida. That is a big swath of the northern Gulf Coast that includes all of our local coastal zones. It is too early to know exactly where this system will track, but that will determine quite a bit about what impacts any given area experiences. Stay tuned over the next few days as we continue to monitor this system.
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I will have updates throughout the day in the RedZone Weather app and posted here on Facebook as needed. See all the graphics and details in your Thursday #rzw forecast video. Enjoy the day!