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Posted at 01:42 PM ET, 06/22/2012

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)
A disorganized weather disturbance near the Yucatan Peninsula has better than even chances of becoming Debby, the 4th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season by Sunday.

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 )
For the moment - it’s very difficult to say exactly what part of the Gulf coast is most likely to be impacted by this system. Computer models show a wide range of possible tracks, although they are trending towards an eventual landfall on Florida’s west coast. Models of the system’s intensity predict it’s most likely to remain a tropical storm rather than attain hurricane status.

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.

By  |  01:42 PM ET, 06/22/2012

Categories:  Latest, Tropical Weather

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