The 2018 hurricane season could be getting a two-week head start. Forecasters are watching a system in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
Among those keeping tabs is Don Shephard, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mobile. He describes it as a non-tropical, weak area over the Gulf.
“The [forecast] models have been hinting at it for four-to-five days; kind of an upper-level low, broad area over the Gulf,” said Shephard. “That could potentially work somewhat down to the surface. But we’re not really anything more than a rain-maker out of it, but it’s something to watch over the next several days.”
For the panhandle and south Alabama, the system could provide heavier rainfall by mid-week, which in turn could lead to what Shephard calls “nuiscance flooding.”
“We’re looking only one-to-two inches, possibly higher in some areas because there is a disturbance right over the Gulf,” Shephard said. “Most likely pushing some waves and some energy this way that we’ll be looking at some rip current risk along the beach, and maybe some higher surf. But we’re not expecting any coastal flooding.”
After weeks of dry weather and a number of wildfires, Shephard says whatever this area gets from the system could turn out to be more beneficial than harmful.
“If everything stays status quo and just get some rain in the area, wet things down but not significant flooding and certainly no real tropical impacts like wind or flooding, we’re just not looking for that,” said Shephard.
The more of a system’s circulation that’s close to or over land, the lesser chance for development. Shephard says this disturbance is close to Florida’s west coast and is expected to remain there for now.
“You’ll have circulation on the north and east of it, coming in across land areas which will somewhat limit development,” said Shephard. “This time of the year is [sic] systems that may begin like that gradually work down to the surface. So, that’s basically what they’re looking for, just in case that happens.”
As of late Monday, the National Hurricane Center reports the low has not shown any signs of increased organization over the past 24 hours. The formation chance the next 48 hours is low – 20 percent over the next 48 hours, and 30 percent through five days.
Shephard is hoping residents along the coast will use this as something of a reminder to get ready for hurricane season which is two and a half weeks down the road.
“Some of our posts on our social media from the office here have been along that line,” said Shephard. We’re getting to that time of the year you should always be prepared. [I] hope we don’t get one, but just be prepared for one because any place along the coast is vulnerable to them.”
In four of the past six hurricane seasons there have been named storms before June 1, according to the Weather Channel. If this system develops, it would be Tropical Storm Alberto.