Still Monitoring Gulf Tropical System: Rough Surf Expected
Updated 12:11 p.m. August 30, 2016.
A tropical depression that formed in the Florida Straits over the weekend is now churning in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, and is forecast to strengthen.
Tropical Depression Nine is expected to become Tropical Storm Hermine later today in the southeastern Gulf, and it could intensify before landfall.
“The storm is moving over very warm water, and winds aloft have lightened quite a bit,” said Meteorologist Jeff Huffman with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. “There is a window in the next 48 hours for some intensification. It could be a strong tropical storm by tomorrow afternoon, as it starts to accelerate northeastward.
The National Hurricane Center is projecting the storm to make landfall in north Florida Thursday.
At this point, it looks like Northwest Florida is in the clear, but local emergency management officials are monitoring the system just in case.
Emergency Manager John Dosh is leading preparedness efforts in Escambia County.
“We’re communicating with the state of Florida, as well as the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, keeping a close eye on the forecasting to make sure there are no unforeseen changes coming about,” Dosh said.
Again, the path of tropical depression nine puts it on track for Florida’s Big Bend Area. Dosh says if that holds, the National Weather Service in Mobile has indicated that it could be pretty nice to the west here in Northwest Florida and South Alabama in the run up to Labor Day weekend.
“We’re going to be getting the wrap around flow, so our winds and conditions are going to be coming out of the north; which is drier air, less humidity, a little bit cooler,” said Dosh. “So, for our weather, it may be good. And, it may help the Gulf lay down a little bit.”
On Monday afternoon, the surf level in the Gulf was roughly waist-high, according to Dave Greenwood, Pensacola Beach Water Safety Chief for Escambia County Public Safety at Santa Rosa Island. "We’ve got a strong wind coming from the east. It’s picking up the surf,” Greenwood said. “But, we anticipate probably into Wednesday, definitely Thursday, we’re going to have some bigger surf.”
Greenwood warns that anytime you have a storm in the Gulf of Mexico, strong winds will create surf and strong surf sometimes produces rip currents.
“And, if we should have a red flag flying, we want all people, all swimming and wading in the Gulf of Mexico in our area is closed,” said Greenwood.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Red Flags were flying over Pensacola Beach; and the forecast calls for the same on Wednesday. The latest information about conditions on Pensacola Beach is available online.
For those visiting the beach, Greenwood’s best advice is to follow the rules of the beach flag system and always swim where lifeguards are posted.
When it comes to hurricane season, the best advice from Escambia Emergency Management Chief John Dosh is to really take stock of what’s happening in the tropics.
Given Tropical Depression Nine (set to become Hermine), Tropical Depression Eight that formed west of Bermuda and is moving toward the coast of North Carolina, and further east in the Atlantic - Hurricane Gaston.
“The Atlantic was a little sleepy at the beginning of the season, but it’s waking up and starting to produce a lot more activity, especially those lows coming off the coast of Africa and moving over, so there’s a lot going on,” said Dosh
If nothing else, Dosh believes this is a good opportunity for residents to use this event as an exercise to test their disaster preparedness plans and procedures.
“Should this been a storm that looked like it was gonna impact our area, we should be going through our plans and procedures to make sure we’re ready go to should we have a storm come our way,” Dosh said.
September 12 is the actual peak of the Atlantic Hurricane season.
Dosh says he’s hopeful that the area will get through the season without any significant impact, otherwise he says stay tuned and stay prepared.