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Jonathan is an emergency management coordinator with a passion for all things weather. He currently lives in south-central Pennsylvania with his wife and son.

Trouble in the Tropics

Jun 23, 2012

Hurricane season officially got underway three weeks ago and anytime now we’ll have our fourth named storm in the Atlantic.

debbie1
NOAA satellite image showing possible tropical storm development in the Gulf of Mexico.  Image credit: NOAA/National Hurricane Center.
 
All eyes are on the Gulf of Mexico as a tropic system (Debbie) organizes and gains strength.
 
According to the National Hurricane Center, data from Gulf buoys, satellites, and reconnaissance information seems to indicate a Tropical Storm will likely form in the Gulf of Mexico sometime during the next 48 hours (from Saturday afternoon). There is even some discussion of the possibility of posting tropical advisories. The NHC says there is a 90% chance of tropical storm formation.
 
Currently, the center of the tropical disturbance is centered about 250 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. 
 
In its latest update, the NHC says Tropical Storm watches or warnings could be posted for the northern Gulf Coast later today – June 23. 
 
Whether or not the storm will evolve into a hurricane remains to be seen; however, a tropical storm posing its own risks. The biggest risk will be flooding from heavy rains. Florida is at the highest risk for flooding as localized heavy rain is already falling over much of the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast. 
 
In addition, tropical storm force winds are already being recorded in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
 
at201296 model
Forecast models showing the possible path of the storm.  Image credit: Wunderground.com
 
Among the known unknowns (to borrow the phrase from past Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld), is where will Debbie go? No one – or at least no computer - is really sure. 
 
Forecast models are literally all over the place when it comes to Debbie’s projected path. There seems to be no real agreement with model data. Some suggest the storm will move west to Texas, another suggests north into Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama, and yet another suggests the storm will drift east to Florida.
 
drmon
US Drought Monitor image showing drought conditions across the US.  Some drought-stricken areas may see relief from the developing tropical system.  Image credit: US Drought Monitor.
 
No matter what path Debbie (should she get a name) takes, it could mean relief for drought stricken areas of the US. The latest US Drought Monitor graphic shows areas of severe to exceptional drought in southern Texas, the Mississippi-Ohio River Valley, and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. As of the latest model runs, the storm has nearly equal chances of going to Texas or the Southeast US. The Mississippi-Ohio River Valley has the least chance of getting a good soaking rain from the storm.
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