(This post, originally published at 12:05 p.m. was updated at 5:00 p.m.)
The tropical Atlantic Ocean is unusually active so early in hurricane season.
Tropical storm Bret formed late Monday afternoon near the Windward Islands, at an extremely unusual location so early in the year.
Meanwhile, a second disturbance currently over the southern Gulf of Mexico, could bring very heavy rain and flooding to the northern U.S. Gulf Coast by the middle of this week. In anticipation of the formation of a tropical storm, which would be named Cindy, the National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning for the Intracoastal City to the Mouth of the Pearl River in Louisiana.
The Gulf of Mexico disturbance (potential Cindy)
The Gulf disturbance is expected to become a tropical depression or Tropical Storm Cindy shortly. It is situated over an area that is quite favorable for development in June, where many past June tropical storms have formed.
The forecast for exactly how strong it will become and its track are still somewhat uncertain, but residents along the northern Gulf Coast should monitor the storm closely, as impacts such as flooding due to heavy rain and storm surge are extremely likely.
Satellite imagery of the disturbance show it is poorly organized, for the moment, with associated thunderstorm activity displaced east of the center. But model guidance suggests conditions should become more favorable for organization, and it will be able to intensify in the coming days as it heads up toward the northern Gulf coast.
Computer model track forecasts suggest the system may head toward the east Texas or Louisiana coast, but it’s too soon to pinpoint the exact area of landfall. Irrespective of exactly where it strikes, heavy rain is likely over a broad area.
At this point, it appears that the bulk of the rain will fall on Wednesday and Thursday from eastern Louisiana to the Florida panhandle. Three to six inches or more of rain is a real possibility in this area, along with the potential for flash flooding.
In addition to flooding from rain, there will be an inland push of ocean water or storm surge in areas to the right of where the center makes landfall, which could cause some coastal flooding.
Tropical storm Bret
Tropical storm Bret is approaching the Windward Islands at an unusually low latitude (not even at 9 degrees north yet). It is expected to cross the southern Windward Islands on Tuesday.
A hurricane hunter aircraft Monday afternoon found “after much effort“, according to the National Hurricane Center, that it had attained the characteristics of a tropical storm.
The system is not only developing at an unusually low latitude but also an unusually far east longitude. Only two previous tropical storms in recorded history have developed this far east before July (in the region of the deep tropics between the Lesser Antilles and Africa): One formed on June 24, 1933, and the other on June 19, 1979. The two seasons during which these June storms formed were quite active and included some of the most infamous storms in history.
Usually, so early in the season, disturbances passing through this region — originating from Africa — are quite weak and/or environmental conditions are hostile to development.
As of Monday afternoon, this disturbance was located about 125 miles east of Trinidad and moving toward the west-northwest at 30 mph.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and parts of coastal Venezuela. A tropical storm watch is posted for Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba.
Once this system enters the Caribbean Sea, the environment is not expected to be as favorable for a tropical cyclone, and it will likely succumb to strong vertical wind shear by Thursday.
Bret becomes the season’s second named storm, well ahead of schedule. The season’s first named storm, Arlene, occurred way back on April 21. On average, the hurricane season’s second named storm occurs on Aug. 2.
If Cindy forms, becoming the season’s third named storm, it will come nearly two-months ahead of the average of Aug. 14. But last year, the third named storm occurred even earlier when Colin formed on June 6.
Jason Samenow contributed to this post.