Tropical Depression 16 Forms-To Become Nate; Headed For the Gulf This Weekend

Tropical Depression 16 forms in the southwest Caribbean at 11 AM Wednesday and an upgrade to Tropical Storm Nate is likely. Hurricane Reconnaissance Aircraft are en route to investigate the new tropical cyclone midday Wednesday. The data from the afternoon mission will be ingested into Wednesday evening computer models. This data is much needed, as Nate will threaten the northern Gulf coast, including Florida, as a strengthening storm. A hurricane is on table at this point.  As we’ve seen multiple times this season, systems are prone to strengthen rapidly this year. Water temperatures in the future path of Nate are in the low to mid 80s. Wind shear remains favorable for steady intensification in the Caribbean. By the time future Nate enters the Gulf late Friday/early Saturday, hostile upper level winds maybe much lower too. Interest along the northern Gulf coast from Louisiana to Florida need to pay close attention to the forecast, as a Gulf landfall appears likely. It is too early to talk specifics, but heavy rain, strong winds, spin up tornadoes, and storm surge are all expected. Even if Nate makes landfall west of Tampa Bay, the flood prone area is on the messy east side of future Nate. A southwest wind would induce coastal flooding/storms surge, as was the case with Hermine in 2016.

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There is quite a spread in Wednesday morning computer models. This is very common, with a weak, newly formed tropical depression. The time frame for greatest Gulf coast impacts will be Saturday and especially Sunday. Coastal Louisiana to the Panhandle of Florida are all on the table for a possible landfall. Intensity is still in question too. The GFS is further west than the ECMWF. The GFS hints at Louisiana while the Euro eyes the Florida Panhandle. Stay tuned and informed.

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Watching Invest 90L in the Caribbean; Headed for the Gulf by Saturday

While there are no named storms Tuesday, it looks increasing likely that Tropical Storm Nate will form in the Caribbean over the next few days. A broad area of low pressure, now pinned Invest 90L forms in the southwest Caribbean. Wind shear is incredibly high in the Gulf and portions of the western Caribbean. It is much lower in the southwest Caribbean near Invest 90L. This favors gradual organization. Invest 90L will lift northward through the end of the work week. While upper level winds will be elevated during this time, water temperatures are plenty warm for tropical cyclone development. Invest 90L heads for the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday morning. It is too early to say where future Nate will head, but interest in the northern Gulf coast from Louisiana to Florida need to stay informed.

Also of note is tropical wave near Cuba and southeast Florida. High westerly shear keeps the slug of moisture disorganized as it moves westward. It has a low chance of become a tropical depression/named storm over the next 5 days. Regardless of tropical development, wind gusts could approach weak tropical storm force in south Florida through Thursday. Heavy rain is also likely through late work week.

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As high pressure slips east in the Atlantic, future Nate lifts northward in the Gulf of Mexico and threatens the northern Gulf states Sunday and Monday. The European model has trended a little stronger over the past 24 hours. As of Tuesday afternoon, it suggest a hurricane moves into the Florida panhandle Sunday night. The GFS isn’t as strong as the EURO. It’s also further west with a coastal Louisiana track. Intensity and track will likely change in the coming days. There is no center or circulation for models to initialize on just yet. One thing for sure is we’ve seen how named storms can strength rapidly this season, if the upper level winds are favorable.

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This is why October is a vulnerable month for Florida and Southeast U.S.. Water temperatures are still in the low to mid 80s, which is plenty warm for storms to strengthen. Much of these waters have been untouched by named storms this season.

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The RPM model/Futurecast shows the tropical wave near Florida moves in the Gulf Thursday and Friday. As it does so, it yanks tropical moisture over south Florida.

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Watching the Caribbean Later This Week

After a hyperactive September, our focus shifts to the Gulf of Mexico, Western Caribbean, and extreme Western Atlantic in October. While 17% of named storms form during the second to last month of the Atlantic season, systems that form in this region often drift towards Florida and portions of the Southeast U.S..

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For more than a week, models have hinted that pressure may lower in the Western Caribbean in early October. On Monday, an upper level low stirs up convection near the Yucatan. A surface low may attempt to form in this region later this work week.. For now, those odds are low over the 5 days. This future area of disturbed weather could move into the southern Gulf of Mexico by Friday or Saturday.

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As is always the case with a developing tropical cyclone, computer model are all over the place. The European model hints that Tropical Storm Nate may approach the west coast of Florida Sunday or Monday. Wind shear may be high enough to keep anything that forms weak. Interest in Florida and the northern Gulf coast should continue to check back in.

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Meanwhile, the latest GFS backs off on any tropical depression/tropical storm development. It’s watch and wait situation in the days ahead.

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Florida Low Unlikely to Develop; Wet Weekend For Florida

A weak area of low pressure we’ve been watching for a few days, Invest 99L, is increasingly unlikely to gain any tropical characteristics over Florida. In combination with a cold front and nearby upper low, the area of low pressure enhances showers and storms this weekend in north central and central Florida. As high pressure builds in over the Northeast U.S., the pressure gradient will tighten. Gusty winds are likely Sunday through mid work week, especially on the east coast of Florida. These strong onshore winds will also bring some minor coastal flooding around high tide to the coastal northeast Florida.

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Upper level winds increase across north and central Florida in the wake of a frontal boundary. At the same time, an upper level low in the eastern Gulf enhances wind shear near Invest 99L too . These winds aloft are unfavorable for tropical depression development. Invest 99L merges with a cold front late Saturday and Sunday.

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Tropical characteristics or not, the disturbance is a big rainmaker for some. The heaviest will fall across northeast Florida near the coast from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach. The European model estimates 3-4″+ for Jacksonville and Daytona Beach through midday Monday. It will be an unsettled weekend in central Florida too with periods of rain/storms.

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Elsewhere, Lee is no longer tropical in the north Atlantic. Maria transitions to an extratropical system and will become a remnant low by Saturday evening. It races northeast toward the United Kingdom early this work week. Wind shear will keep a tropical wave near the northeast Caribbean from developing. Heavy rain is still likely the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico through Sunday. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect through late Sunday. Sadly, these areas are recovering from Irma and Maria.

All eyes are on the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean in early and mid October. Long-range models hint that pressure will be lowering late next week. It’s too early to pin point exactly where.

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Weak Low Moving Near Florida This Weekend; Tropical Development Possible

As we get set to close out the work week, we’re watching an area of disturbed weather central Cuba. The National Hurricane Center is currently giving this a 50% chance of development over the next few days as it moves northward and eventually up the east coast of Florida.

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A weak area of low pressure is likely to form through the day on Friday as this disturbance moves over the Florida Straits. Any time you have an area of low pressure in a favorable environment over very warm water, it has to be watched closely. That being said, even if we do see something develop, it would likely be weak with minimal impacts. The one thing we can count on though is increased rain chances across most of the state through the weekend and into early next week. Rain totals will be on the order of 1-3″ across a lot of Central and South Florida, with isolated higher amounts possible especially in South Florida.

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We’re getting into the time of year when ‘homegrown’ activity in the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean become more prevalent. Fitting into that mold, many models as of late have hinted at lowering pressure across the western Caribbean late next week. It’s something you’ll hear us talk more about as we get closer to that time frame, but for now it is just reminder that hurricane season is not over and we need to stay prepared. Hopefully we’ll get through the next few weeks unscathed and we’ll be home free, as things quiet down greatly in November.

Maria Ready To Race Out To Sea; Looking Ahead To October

Overnight Tuesday into early Wednesday, Maria brought tropical storm conditions to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The storm stayed about 150 miles offshore as it passed by, but large swells created dangerous rip currents and a storm surge of 2-4′, which in some cases resulted in minor coastal flooding.

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Maria is a category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph as of 11am Wednesday. Thanks to a trough digging into the northeast, Maria will take a sharp right hand turn over the next 24 hours and begin moving rapidly to the east-northeast, out to sea. Subsequently, conditions along the east coast will slowly be improving.

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With Maria on its way out and Hurricane Lee bothering nobody but the fish in the open Atlantic, we finally have somewhat of a quiet period. That being said, it is still hurricane season and we’ll still be watching the tropics closely over the next month or so. Storms can and do often form during the month of October, before we see a sharp decline in activity in November. Unlike August and September, when we watch for tropical waves rolling off Africa, the month of October often favors more “homegrown” activity in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. There have already been some hints in our long-range modeling of lowering pressure in the western Caribbean over the next couple of weeks. For now though, we enjoy the relative lull in activity and hope it stays with us the rest of the season.

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It has been an incredibly active season thus far with 13 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes – already nearing or reaching the numbers put forth in many seasonal outlooks, with still two months left in the official hurricane season.

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Hurricane Maria Generates Swells Along East Coast; Tropical Storm Conditions in the Outer Banks Early Wednesday

Hurricane Maria hangs on Monday evening. The once major hurricane loses its symmetry and deep convection near its core. Maria combats stronger upper levels winds and taps into some cooler waters from upwelling from Jose. As of 5 PM it is a category 1 hurricane with 80 mph. It moves north at 7 mph. At this pace Maria will make its closest pass to the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a strong tropical storm early Wednesday. A strong upper level trough while guide Maria out to sea late in the work week. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for North of Duck to the North Carolina/Virginia border and North of Surf City to south of Cape Lookout. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for Cape Lookout to Duck North Carolina. A mandatory evacuation was ordered from Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island Monday afternoon.

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Here is the 5 PM advisory. Notice the sharp northeast track after Wednesday. Maria will accelerate out to sea and lose tropical characteristics by Saturday.

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While the center of Maria will pass well east of North Carolina, the tropical storm force wind field is quite large. Tropical storm force winds extend out 200 miles from its center. Sustained winds will approach low-end tropical storm force in the Outer Banks late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Below is the GFS wind speed forecast for early Wednesday morning. Higher gusts are likely. Outer bands will bring 1-2 inches of rain to the region, but this won’t be a big rainmaker.

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Wave heights continue to build as Maria lifts northward in the western Atlantic. Dangerous swells reach the Mid Atlantic and even the Northeast Monday evening. Rough surf will continue through at least mid-week. This enhances the risk for rip currents and beach erosion. A 2-4 foot storm surge is possible from Cape Lookout to Duck North Carolina, including the sound side of the Outer Banks. Coastal flooding is possible starting Tuesday.

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Elsewhere tiny hurricane Lee churns across the north central Atlantic. It weakens some at 5 PM. It is no threat to any land and will stay over the open Atlantic.

As October approaches, all eyes are on the western Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Long range models hint that pressure may lower in the western Caribbean during the first week of October. This is in line with climatology this time of year. Water temperatures are in the mid 80s. Our focus shifts to this region and away from the Main Development Region in the central Atlantic in the coming weeks.

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Hurricane Maria To Edge Past North Carolina Coast By Midweek

On Sunday evening, Hurricane Maria is still a category 2 storm with max winds over 100 mph. It will continue to slowly weaken over the next couple days as moves north into an increasingly unfavorable environment with higher wind shear.

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Image below (wind shear) courtesy University of Wisconsin/NOAA.

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At this point, confidence is fairly high that Maria will ultimately get picked up and ushered out to sea mid-late week by a trough digging into the mid-Atlantic and northeast. That being said, the storm may pass within 100-200 miles of the Outer Banks of North Carolina before that happens and effects of the storm can be felt well away from the center. At the very least, high surf and gusty winds can be expected in the Outer Banks and a tropical storm watch has been issued for areas from Surf City northward to the North Carolina/Virginia border, including the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. A storm surge of 2-4 feet is possible from Cape Lookout to Duck including the sound side of the Outer Banks.

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Maria Still a Major Hurricane Saturday; Some Models Shift West Towards the Outer Banks

Hurricane Maria weakens some, but maintains major hurricane strength well east of Florida Saturday. The destructive storm with a large eye exits Turks and Caicos and will spend the next few days over warm Atlantic waters. Wind shear is on the rise, so Maria will weaken some in the coming days. Waves build up to 30 feet near Maria, but swells and rough surf already reach the east coast of Florida up through the Carolinas. The risk for rip currents remains high through at least mid work week.

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Here is the 11 AM forecast track from the NHC. Maria is a category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. It will head north-northwest through Monday and run into some hostile upper level winds. Maria may encounter some slight cooler waters mid work week off of the Mid Atlantic. However, a further west course closer to the Outer Banks puts Maria over the warm Gulf Stream. The Outer Banks of North Carolina are in the cone of uncertainty Wednesday and Thursday. This in line with a westward shift in some computer models early Saturday. Most models still keep Maria offshore. Interest in the Mid Atlantic region should also keep a watchful eye. Additional upper air soundings start Saturday afternoon and NOAA G-IV mission will assess the environment Sunday. This will help models gain better consensus on any possible U.S. impacts.

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Tropical Storm Lee found new life late this work week. It is a tiny weak tropical storm Saturday morning. Lee may regain hurricane strength over the open central Atlantic this work week. It is no threat to land. Meanwhile the remnants of Jose churn off of New England. It is still breezy in coastal Massachusetts with rough surf from the Mid Atlantic up through the Northeast. Boating remains unfavorable through the work week as Maria lifts north over the western Atlantic.

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Fortunately, we enter a quiet 5-7 day stretch in the Atlantic Basin. Fronts are more active as we approach October. While this enhances upper level winds in the tropics, water temperatures are still quite water in the Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean. Sea surface temperatures in the western Caribbean, parts of the Gulf of Mexico and even the western Atlantic are running .5-2° C above average. Fronts/troughs can guide tropical systems towards Florida/the U.S.  These are areas we will watch for tropical cyclone formation in the weeks ahead.

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Maria Makes Landfall In Puerto Rico

At 6:15 am Wednesday morning, Hurricane Maria made landfall on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico near the city of Yabucoa. At landfall, Maria had sustained winds of 155 mph. It is the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1932.

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After departing Puerto Rico later today, Maria will continue on a path that will take it north of the Dominican Republic, but very near the Turks & Caicos by Friday morning. Maria should weaken a bit over the next day or two, but will still be a dangerous major hurricane by the end of the week.

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The storm will stay well east of Florida, but hose along the east coast of the United States from North Carolina to New England should monitor the progress of Maria closely. Models have been pretty consistent in keeping the storm well offshore of the Carolinas; but at the very least some big swells can be expected early next week, especially along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We’ll keep you updated.

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