The Gulf of Mexico is coming to life as low pressure is now developing in the central part of the gulf. The developing circulation is still elongated with one lobe of low pressure west of Key West and the other down near the NW coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, acting as a trough extension to the monsoon low over central America. The area is still experiencing moderate wind shear, but the shear has relaxed to below 10 knots near the Yucatan Channel as an upper ridge starts to build northward in the wake of the retreating upper low over Florida mentioned yesterday. The environment will be slowly improving with time, and should allow the eventual organization of this disturbance into tropical storm Debby in a few days.
The track of this system remains the biggest question, as the models are split about in half on whether it will move into the NW gulf or escape northeast over Florida. My forecast remains that the system will get caught by the Texas ridge and move in the NW gulf, making landfall in southern Texas or northern Mexico. However, the northeast escape route cannot be dismissed either, so the entire gulf coast, especially Texas and Florida, should be on alert for the possibility of a landfalling tropical cyclone early next week. Florida is already set up to get tons of rain from this system regardless. In the video I show the current model projections and why I am sticking with the westward track. This is a particularly difficult forecasting situation, and any forecast won’t have a high degree of confidence until the models finally form a consensus on the track.
One thing the models do agree on now is that this system should develop into a tropical cyclone of some kind. The CMC and ECMWF are taking the storm to hurricane strength, which may be overdone, but it raises the concern over how long this disturbance will be sitting in the gulf. The models keep pushing the time frame back due to how long the system stalls waiting for the east coast trough, and we’re still talking about 5-7 days or more before this is out of our hair. With that much time, it is possible that the storm will have enough time to come together and become stronger than originally thought, but we will know more about the potential strength after the track is better-known, for that will affect the intensity as well.
Overall, the gulf coast should be watching for at least a heavy rain event that will affect Florida regardless of what the track is, and should move into the NW gulf by early next week, affecting at least the south Texas and north Mexican coastlines. Again, though, the northeast gulf should be watching the situation closely as well, for the northeasterly track option cannot be discounted yet in such a tough forecasting setup.
We shall see what happens!