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Gulf System Could Strengthen Into Tropical Storm


Heavy rain, storm surge, flooding possible along Gulf Coast

Forecasters are keeping an eye on a disturbance in the western Gulf of Mexico, which is expected to strengthen by this weekend.

“The National Hurricane Center has said this is a high chance of developing into a tropical system over the next couple of days; looks like Friday it should be a tropical depression,” said Megan Borowski, a meteorologist at the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN).

“Whether or not it strengthens after that remains to be seen; it’s really going to depend on if the core of this thing stays over water and strengthens,” said Borowski. “But yeah – it could at least organize into a depression by the end of the work week.”

If the system develops into a tropical storm, it will be named Claudette. But regardless of strength, it is expected to impact the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama.

“The way the steering is in the atmosphere right now, we’ve got a moisture train coming in from the Gulf of Mexico,” Borowski said. “And if things continue they likely will be getting that through southerly winds off the Gulf. That means lots of moisture overhead as we’re looking at a good deal of rainfall expected over the next several days.”

While wind speeds aren’t considered to be that substantial for now, Borowski is quick to add that could change in the next day or so. Water conditions are a different story.

“We’re expecting a high risk for rip currents Thursday, Friday, and into the weekend; boaters and swimmers – not really a good time to be out there,” said Borowski. “With the rainfall on top of potential storm surge inundation, flooding is going to be a concern this weekend into the beginning of next week.”

The Gulf Coast is in the middle of a heatwave, which means the already-warm water in the Gulf is even more so. The readings are in the 80s in the Bay of Campeche, where the disturbance is now.

“I don’t know if the latest heatwave has intensified temperatures too much, but the water temperatures are supportive, nonetheless, of tropical development.”

The bottom line on the data and predictions of strength and movement – is to make sure residents in the potentially-affected area have their storm plans ready to go.

“Regardless of if it becomes a named storm or not, we are expecting an uptick in moisture over our area; that means more rainfall – we’ve been inundated with rain over the past couple of days,” said FPREN’s Megan Borowski. “Localized flooding is going to increasingly become a concern. You guys know what to do – make sure you’re prepared for any emergency situation that comes your way.”

More information is available at floridapublicmedia.org, or on the FPREN app.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.