HOUSTON, Texas — (DMN) – The National Hurricane Center now projects that the storm system in the Gulf of Mexico will become Tropical Storm Debby. In fact, the forecast gives the storm a 90% chance of development within the next 48 hours. More uncertainty centers around where the storm may track. Eric Berger writes in the Houston Chronicle that the storm, which increasingly looks like it will have some effect on Texas during the middle of next week, is already affecting activity in the Gulf of Mexico. Anadarko Petroleum Corp said today it was shutting in production at four oil and natural gas platforms in the eastern Gulf. Other companies are taking similar action as well. Floodgates in some areas of southeastern Louisiana are already being closed.
The latest forecast models, which have come out between noon and 2 p.m. today, suggest the storm may approach Texas as a hurricane during the middle of the coming week. Please bear in mind that forecast track models for systems that have not yet developed into full-fledged tropical storms are not wholly reliable. As AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brian Edwards stated on Friday, there are two main factors that could influence the low’s movement–a dip in the jet stream diving into the East Coast and a large ridge of high pressure building over and baking the Plains.
The low will continue to crawl northward this weekend, but could get drawn across northern or central Florida by the dip in the jet stream during the first half of next week. The strong winds of the jet stream would prevent the future tropical storm from rapidly strengthening as it approaches Florida, but flooding rain would remain a serious concern. If the low misses the connection with the jet stream, the door would open for the building high to steer the low to the west or even southwest toward Texas or northern Mexico. Given this solution, landfall would likely be delayed until the middle or latter part of next week.
A track toward Texas or northern Mexico would put the low in an environment conducive for further strengthening, giving the future tropical storm the opportunity to become a hurricane. Tropical moisture and downpours could still get directed across Florida in the event this latter solution pans out. There is also the possibility that both the high and the jet stream fail to influence the low’s movement. Such a scenario would allow the low to stall out over the central Gulf of Mexico or drift northward to the central Gulf Coast. Before the low shifts off its northward course after the weekend, surf will continue to build and the danger of rip currents will significantly heighten along the eastern and central Gulf Coasts.
Showers and thunderstorms will also invade more of Florida into Sunday. Tropical and potentially flooding downpours will occasionally occur, especially along the state’s western coast. With the exact track of the low far from set in stone, all residents along the Gulf Coast and even into the Southeast are urged to check back with the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center for the latest on what will become Tropical Storm Debby.
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL 200 PM EDT SAT JUN 23 2012 FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO... 1. BUOY OBSERVATIONS...SATELLITE DATA...AND PRELIMINARY RECONNAISSANCE DATA INDICATE THAT A TROPICAL STORM MAY BE FORMING IN THE CENTRAL GULF OF MEXICO ABOUT 250 MILES SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF THE MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. IF THE PLANE IS ABLE TO IDENTIFY A WELL-DEFINED SURFACE WIND CIRCULATION...THEN ADVISORIES WILL BE INITIATED LATER THIS AFTERNOON. THIS SYSTEM HAS A HIGH CHANCE...90 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE AS IT MOVES SLOWLY NORTHWESTWARD DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS. TROPICAL STORM WATCHES OR WARNINGS COULD BE REQUIRED FOR A PORTION OF THE NORTHERN GULF COAST LATER TODAY...AND INTERESTS IN THIS AREA SHOULD CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF THIS LOW. HEAVY RAINS AND LOCALIZED FLOODING ARE POSSIBLE ACROSS WESTERN CUBA AND MUCH OF FLORIDA OVER THE NEXT DAY OR SO. TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS ARE ALREADY OCCURRING IN THE EASTERN GULF OF MEXICO. PLEASE SEE MARINE FORECASTS ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THIS SYSTEM. Accuweather and the Houston Chronicle contributed to this report.