Tropical Threat Increases for Coastal Louisiana this Weekend
Compared to Hurricanes Laura and Delta this weekend's tropical weather threat along Louisiana's Gulf Coast will be mild. But just because the winds will not be howling in excess of 140 mph doesn't mean there aren't many reasons to be concerned with the latest tropical weather system.
Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center have been monitoring an area of disturbed weather in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico for the better part of a week now. And finally, the system is showing signs of movement. Unfortunately, that movement appears to be in the general direction of Louisiana's storm-battered coastline.
Currently, the Hurricane Center defines the system as a broad area of low pressure. With that broad circulation, satellite images have shown an increase in convection. That means more and more showers and storms are firing up around the as yet undefined center of circulation.
Why is Finding the Center of Circulation So Important?
While the devastation of a tropical cyclone is not confined to the center, knowing where that center helps forecasters better predict where the worst of the storm's fury will unfold and when that fury might be unleashed. With this current system, the lack of a well-defined center had made forecasting its track and potential strength very problematic for meteorologists.
What do the Forecast Models Say?
The reliable tropical models have had their difficulty finding and forecasting not only the track of this system but just how strong it may or may not be. Again, without a good solid center of circulation to work from the models are spread fairly wide this morning. This kind of divergence in model guidance usually suggests that a well-defined forecast track is uncertain. However, in the case of this system, a general movement to the north and into the central Gulf of Mexico seems to be the consensus.
What are the Anticipated Impacts in South Louisiana?
Rain. That's going to be the biggest impact and as of right now with the uncertainty of the forecast track, it is also going to be one of the most difficult impacts to forecast. Satellite images and forecast speculation suggests that the bulk of the "weather" associated with this system will take place to the east of the center of circulation. If you're east of the center you could see four, five, or even eight inches of rain over the next few days. However, if the system passes to the east of you, you might only get a half-inch of rain or less.
Where is Landfall Expected?
As of now the best guesses for a landfall are anywhere from the Galveston area in Texas to as far east as Biloxi and Gulfport in Mississippi. Since the model guidance has been inconclusive we have seen swings in projected landfall points move several hundred miles with each new model run. The uncertainty in the track is the reason why so many of us need to be prepared for a major rain event with some gusty winds.
When is Landfall Expected?
The best guess on that would be sometime very late Friday night but more likely early Saturday morning. Again the track will have a lot to do with when landfall happens. If the system slides a little further west then it could impact the Texas coast sooner than it might if it were making landfall in the New Orleans area. But the consensus is for the system to be crossing the coast Saturday morning.
A Hurricane Hunter aircraft is scheduled to fly into the system later this afternoon. Their flights will help forecasters better determine current conditions within the system and also help pinpoint the center of circulation if there is one. We should know the results of those flights later today and the forecast and track guidance will likely be adjusted.
I would anticipate at least tropical storm watches will be posted for Louisiana's coastline by sometime later today since they are usually issued well in advance of a potential tropical landfall. As of now, forecasters do not anticipate this system reaching hurricane status. However, a shift in the track or a slow down in the system's forward speed resulting in more time over water could change that.
The bottom line is this. We anticipate flooding in Louisiana this weekend. Exactly where we can't say but everyone from Lake Charles to New Orleans needs to be prepared for several inches of rainfall. Winds will also be gusty, which could result in minimal tree and property damage. too.
I guess if all of the tropical anxiety has you up in arms wondering if you'll ever have the chance to relax and enjoy summer without a potential evacuation, you could consider moving to one of these places. Especially if you enjoy the small-town way of life.
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