There’s a potential tropical system brewing for Gulf Coast states and it was already bringing heavy rains to South Florida.
Later in the week, it could also bring heavy rains to the the still-recovering Florida Panhandle, which was battered by Category 5 Hurricane Michael last fall. There, roofs remain patched with blue tarps, debris is still in heaps and insurance payments continue trickling into a struggling community.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are are giving the system, which on Monday amounted to a trough of low pressure moving south over Georgia, an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression in the next five days, said Stacy Stewart, a hurricane specialist at the NHC. If it strengthens enough, it would become Barry, the second named storm of the 2019 season.
“It won’t form over land, but once it gets out over the Gulf of Mexico, it will have a better chance to go on and develop,” he said.
When the disturbance hits the extra warm waters of the Gulf — left 3 to 4 degrees hotter thanks to record-breaking high temperatures in June — it could have plenty of fuel to strengthen later in the week. If that happens, it could bring heavy rain along Florida’s Panhandle, where strong rains still panic local children traumatized by the storm, before heading on a projected westerly path along the coastline toward Louisiana and Texas. The National Weather Service predicts Panama City, which took the brunt of last year’s hurricane, will get 6 to 8 inches of rain this week.
For now, the ripple effects are producing drenching rains for South Florida projected through the first half of the week.
Typically, the NHC pegs a developing system when it is out over water — out in Atlantic Ocean or Caribbean Sea, The origins of this one are over the Southeastern United States and moving south into a Gulf primed for development. That might seem out of the ordinary, but Stewart said 30 percent of all storms come from “non-tropical” sources like this one.
“While it might seem unusual or odd, it’s not that particularly unusual,” he said. “This happens more often than people realize.”
Stewart said the potential storm is expected to move slowly, around 10 mph, toward Louisiana and the upper Texas Coast, which could see 10 to 15 inches of rain by the end of the week.
“It’s not going to be a Harvey-type situation at 60 inches, but there’s potential for local heavy rain and flooding,” he said.