Tropics Tracker: Major threat to north Gulf Coast late this weekend

Storm could rapidly intensify prior to making landfall

Estimated position and intensity of storm in Gulf of Mexico Sunday

ORLANDO, Fla – The tropics are blazing hot as we head into the peak of hurricane season. There are currently three disturbances in the Atlantic basin that the National Hurricane Center is highlighting.

The disturbance of concern to the U.S. is newly-designated Tropical Depression 9. The two systems in the Atlantic are no threat to the U.S, but at least one of those systems could receive a name by the end of the weekend.

Areas from the Florida Panhandle to the Texas coast should pay close attention as the disturbance develops over the weekend. As the center of the storm becomes more defined and Hurricane Hunter missions become more numerous, the data will become more reliable and confidence will grow in where the storm is headed.

This system should move safely away from Central Florida.

Tropical steering

High pressure will build along the southeast over the weekend. This high will act as a shield for Central Florida, pushing the eventual Gulf system west of the peninsula. The Panhandle, at this time, still needs to pay close attention as the steering currents become more defined and the storm itself develops.

If the storm is slow to move through the Gulf of Mexico, the high could tug it back east a little which is why interests in the Florida Panhandle should be monitoring. Once the system enters the Gulf, it will be encountering an increasingly favorable environment with low wind shear and extremely warm water temperatures.

The system will not only be traveling through very warm water but very deep, warm water. With a conducive environment in the upper atmosphere, the storm could intensify rapidly as it approaches land.

The darker the color the more fuel is available for tropical systems from deep, warm ocean water

The current forecast track takes the system over the loop current, a flow of warm water from the Yucatan into the Gulf. This has been involved in the rapid intensification of storms in the past. This will be high octane fuel for a strengthening storm.

Beyond those three disturbances, another robust tropical wave looks to emerge off of Africa early next week. That one bears watching as well.

About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.