Gulf states on high alert for possible hurricane hit early next week

Tropical Disturbance #1 is very close to reaching tropical depression status, and possibly it will jump right to Tropical Storm Ida. Turning of the air is evident. Hurricane Hunters will investigate the system today to see if an organized circulation has formed.

The system appears to be forming in the top part of the overall disturbance envelope, just south of Jamaica. This northern formation location would seem to focus the threat area on the northwestern and northern Gulf coast: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Effects could be felt in the Florida Panhandle, as well.

Jamaica, western Cuba, the Cayman Islands and the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico will feel direct effects from the storm, but it appears most of the intensification will take place after it passes into the northern Gulf. Still, Tropical Storm Warnings will soon be issued for those areas.

The computer forecast models show a landfall as early as Sunday, if it heads directly for Louisiana or Mississippi. It will take a little more time if the storm takes the longer path farther west to Texas. The range of possibilities is still fairly wide because the system doesn’t have a defined center yet. We also don’t know if it will shoot the gap between Mexico and western Cuba into the northwestern Gulf, and therefore not be weakened very much by interacting with the land. The intensity of the system can have some effect on its track.

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The rule of weak, disorganized or developing systems still applies. Forecasts for systems without a well-defined center will always have larger errors and are subject to change. It’s no time to be hanging any hats on the forecast, but there is a large consensus that full-scale hurricane preparations are going to be required on parts of the Gulf Coast in the next few days.

A strong high-pressure system centered off the Southeast coast will protect the Florida peninsula and direct the storm into the Gulf. It might come close enough to the Lower Keys, however, to produce a period of gusty winds and possibly tropical downpours if an outer band rotates over the island chain.

Stay informed on the Gulf coast. This will be a fast-evolving situation.

Tropical Disturbance #2 has a good chance of developing into a tropical depression or tropical storm in a day or two. But it is forecast to curve up into the middle of the Atlantic and not threaten land.

Tropical Disturbance #3 now appears to have a decent chance of developing, although it’s surrounded by Saharan dust. Even if it does develop, it is also forecast to track toward the north and not be a threat.

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