Two hurricane landfalls in two days are possible, while a third hurricane may develop out of Tropical Storm Teddy by Tuesday afternoon. Sally rapidly strengthened into a hurricane midday Monday, with intensity increasing at a concerning rate.
For only the second time on record, at least five tropical cyclones (Rene, Paulette, Sally, Teddy and Vicky) roamed the Atlantic simultaneously Monday. The last time this occurred was in September 1971, when there were six. Tropical cyclones refer to all tropical systems with a closed low-pressure center, including depressions, storms and hurricanes.
Colorado State tropical weather researcher Phil Klotzbach wrote that this September has set a record for most named storms in the Atlantic to date, seven.
It has been a record year for tropical activity in the Atlantic, with a whopping 20 named storms forming and obliterating the typical seasonal average of 11. Among them have been the earliest C, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, R, S, T and V storms recorded; yet most have proved extremely short-lived and weak. The amount of energy expended by systems this year is right on par with an average Atlantic season.
In about a week’s time, the central and eastern Atlantic look to simmer down a little, but activity could shift more toward the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and the West Atlantic.
Only one conventional name remains available for use on the seasonal list before we dip into the Greek alphabet for additional names, a rarity that appears a virtual certainty at this point. Here, we summarize everything going on.
Hurricane Paulette made landfall in Bermuda early Monday, swallowing the island and bringing strong winds and heavy rainfall. Paulette was a Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds to 95 mph listed by the National Hurricane Center. An observation station in Wreck Road, Bermuda, reported sustained winds of 65 mph Monday morning. Gusts to 74 mph had been measured at the airport.
Very early in the morning, a gust of up to 117 mph was recorded at the Bermuda Marine Operations Center, situated 290 feet above sea level. A hurricane warning remained in effect for the island as the northern eyewall pulled away to the north.
Paulette marked the latest in a litany of tropical systems to affect Bermuda in the past decade. Fay and Gonzalo made landfall in Bermuda within one week in 2014, as Category 1 and 2 hurricanes, respectively. Major hurricane Humberto’s eyewall clipped Bermuda in September 2019, and the eyewall of major hurricane Nicole brought severe winds to the island in 2016.
Sally was a Category 1 hurricane in the northeast Gulf of Mexico early Monday, expected to approach southeastern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi on Tuesday as a Category 2, with landfall shortly thereafter. Strong winds are possible, but flooding, both coastal and inland, will be dangerous and widespread.
The National Hurricane Center indicates a worst-case scenario storm surge of up to seven to 11 feet is possible from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Mississippi border, including Lake Borgne. The northern Gulf of Mexico is extremely susceptible to storm surge, since the bathymetry of the continental shelf, or slope of the sea floor offshore, is gradual. That makes it easy for any storm, including low-end hurricanes, to push water onto land in a damaging or destructive way.
Flooding will be a problem even away from the shoreline, with a widespread eight to 16 inches, locally approaching 20 inches, in the zone from southeast Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
Tropical Storm Teddy
Tropical Storm Teddy was located midway between the Cabo Verde islands and the Leeward Islands on Monday morning, producing maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. Teddy formed very early Monday morning but is expected to reach Category 3 strength by Friday night. That would make it only the second major Atlantic hurricane of 2020.
The system is expected to remain over the open Atlantic and poses no threat to land. Eventually, it will probably pass well east of Bermuda and transition into a nontropical, or “extratropical,” low-pressure system at the mid-latitudes.
Tropical Storm Vicky
Tropical Storm Vicky developed sneakily Monday morning from Tropical Depression 21. Morning passes of a satellite-mounted scatterometer, which bounces pulses of radiation off wind-driven ocean waves, revealed a closed circulation and wind gusts of over 40 mph. That was enough to prompt the National Hurricane Center to name the storm in their 11 a.m. Monday update.
On satellite, Vicky was poorly organized; most of its thunderstorm activity was displaced east of the center, with a naked low-level swirl visible to the west.
Vicky won’t bother anyone and should harmlessly tour the eastern Atlantic before degenerating into a remnant low by Thursday.
Tropical Depression Rene
Rene, once a tropical storm, is a dizzy tropical depression dying a slow death over the central Atlantic. It brought heavy rain to Cabo Verde last Monday and Tuesday but otherwise has evaded land. After peaking as a 50 mph tropical storm, Rene fizzled into a depression Saturday and remained a decreasingly organized tropical depression to start the workweek.
Two areas to watch
In addition to the ongoing systems, the cluttered tropical map also includes two areas to watch — one offshore of Guinea and Sierra Leone in Africa, and one in the western Gulf of Mexico.
Neither looks overly well-organized or prone to develop, with 40 percent and 10 percent chances of doing so, respectively.
Instead, the thunderstorm activity in the western Gulf may bring pockets of moderate rainfall to Tamaulipas, Mexico, while the other wave in the Atlantic could develop very slowly as it drifts west. Its prospects will become clearer later in the week.