Tropical storm Debby could form in Gulf of Mexico this weekend


Satellite image showing disturbance 96L which could develop into tropical storm Debby in next 48 hours. (NOAA)

Should this disturbance attain tropical storm status, it will be the first time on record four named storms formed prior to July.

Where this system is going to go and when it’s going to get there remain open questions...

Officially, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) gives this broad area of low pressure a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or tropical storm in the next 48 hours.

Capital Weather Gang’s tropical weather expert, Dr. Greg Postel, offered this description of this disjointed weather system:

This [disturbance], identified by NHC as 96L, is still in pieces. Satellite imagery and surface observations suggest that the most concentrated area of thunderstorms is displaced hundreds of miles east and south of the lowest surface pressures. This is ostensibly due to the effects of [strong] westerly wind shear currently over the region.

Postel agrees with NHC that conditions will gradually become more favorable for the disturbance to consolidate and develop as it drifts into the Gulf of Mexico:

The global weather models mature 96L –to widely varying degrees- and move it further [north] in the Gulf of Mexico. With high oceanic heat content in the Gulf, and an expectation that wind shear should ease up a bit over the next few days, residents along the entire Gulf Coast should monitor the progress of 96L.


Model tracks for disturbance 96L ( NCAR )

Current indications suggest rain (as opposed to damaging winds) will be the biggest story with this system due to its slow movement.

The National Hurricane Center cautions:


Rainfall projections Friday through Tuesday (NOAA)

NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center shows the potential for 3-6” of rain over the next five days along the west coast of Florida.

We will keep you posted on the development of this system.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.

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