UPDATE: Tropical storm or hurricane possible in Gulf this week

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The weak disturbance over the southeastern U.S. has emerged into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday afternoon. Odds are still high that this system strengthens into a tropical depression or worse over the next few days.

Hotter than normal sea surface temperatures in the upper 80s in the eastern Gulf combined with low vertical wind shear may fuel tropical cyclogenesis (the development of a tropical depression) in the next 48 hours. Typically, water temperatures above 80ºF are considered sufficient to form a tropical depression. These waters are as warm as 87ºF.

Once the storm forms a closed center of circulation, computer model forecasts will get a much better handle on the track and intensity of what could be Tropical Storm or Hurricane Barry. Until that happens, computer model paths and intensities are varied and erratic.

As it stands now, our high-resolution computer model (shown above) is forecasting a westward-moving hurricane in the northern Gulf of Mexico early Friday morning. This computer model only sees 72 hours into the future, so the forecast track beyond that has yet to be seen.

Extended models that see farther into the future are starting to come into alignment regarding the intensity and track at potential landfall time.

The ECMWF (European model) which gained hurricane-forecasting credit as the only computer to correctly predict Hurricane Sandy’s unusual track in 2012 has a hurricane near Louisiana on Friday morning. It then takes the storm on a hard right into the Louisiana coast, then farther northward. If this solution verifies, sinking air on the periphery of this storm may actually mean very hot, dry weather this weekend in central Texas.

ECMWF model forecast (Sunday morning), showing a potential hurricane in central Louisiana. NOTE: Uncertainty is high, and forecasts will be modified.

The GFS (American model) is now coming in line more with the ECMWF, showing a more intense storm on a farther eastward track than earlier model solutions.

GFS model forecast (Sunday morning), showing what is likely a tropical storm in central Louisiana. NOTE: Uncertainty is high, and forecasts will be modified.

Though these computer models are starting to align more closely, it should be emphasized that uncertainty remains very high. The storm has yet to even form a closed center of circulation yet, so predicting where that center will go and how strong the storm will get is very difficult.

The track and intensity of this potential tropical system will dictate our weekend forecast, and how much rain falls in our area over the next week.

Current projections from the NOAA Weather Prediction Center (below) are assuming a Texas/Louisiana border landfall, which could lead to dangerous rainfall in that area over 10 inches. If the track shifts westward or eastward, our local rainfall forecast will change.

Stay with KXAN and the First Warning Weather App for daily updates as the storm develops.

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