Another ‘homebrew’ tropical storm may develop near Florida
Whether a tropical or hybrid storm forms or not, tropical moisture will fuel drenching storms in the Southeast, and the weather set-up will also lead to coastal hazards all along the Eastern Seaboard.
The ingredients will come together for a tropical system to potentially spin up in the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days.
AccuWeather hurricane experts say that tropical development could once again take shape in waters near the United States close behind the "homebrew" development of Tropical Storm Ophelia. A zone from the northwestern Caribbean to the southeastern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters just east of Florida warrants a close watch for tropical development from the end of September to early October.
Even if a named storm does not form, tropical moisture from the region could continue to fuel downpours and thunderstorms in part of the Southeast in the coming days. The weather setup will also lead to coastal hazards all along the Eastern Seaboard, regardless of whether an organized system develops.
Forecasters refer to tropical systems that tend to form near the U.S. coast, such as Tropical Storm Ophelia, as "homebrew" systems.
"The area where a tropical system may slowly take shape this week is located just south of a stalled front left behind in the wake of Ophelia," AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. "Stalled fronts near the southeastern U.S. are potential formation areas for homebrew tropical systems."
Satellite data was already showing a broad zone of slowly rotating clouds, showers and thunderstorms in the northwestern Caribbean Sea as of Monday morning.
This image of the Gulf of Mexico and the western Caribbean Sea shows showers and thunderstorms gathering near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Central America and western Cuba on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (AccuWeather Enhanced RealVue™ Satellite)
The combination of the stalled front and tropical moisture, including a tropical disturbance known as a tropical wave, will lead to clusters of showers and thunderstorms from Central America, Cuba and Jamaica to southeastern Mexico, Florida and much of the northern Gulf coast of the U.S. this week.
This part of the Atlantic basin has not been churned up by a tropical system in many weeks. Upwelling created by storms, such as hurricanes, tends to bring cool water up from the depths.
Waters in this region of the Atlantic basin are sufficiently warm enough to support tropical development this week and into next week, said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham. Water temperatures generally must be near 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for a tropical system to form given there are ideal weather conditions for development. Sea-surface temperatures in this zone were generally in the 80s as of midweek.
Despite the warm water, rapid organization in this zone is unlikely, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty explained.
"There are some factors working against development in this zone, including wind shear, pockets of dry air and a storm in the middle level of the atmosphere that will interact with the existing areas of moisture," Douty said. Wind shear is a zone of stiff breezes that can change direction and hinder tropical systems if strong enough.
Any system that emerges may remain weak or may not be fully tropical in nature and could become more of a tropical and non-tropical hybrid. Either way, any organization is likely to be slow, Douty added.
Steering breezes may cause the disturbance to wander west or northwest initially this week before possibly being turned back to the northeast and toward Florida later on.
"Because of the proximity to land, these homebrew systems may offer little time to prepare, should one catch on, as Ophelia did," Buckingham said. AccuWeather dubbed Ophelia as a tropical rainstorm and provided accurate track and impact information days ahead of any major weather source, including the National Hurricane Center.
Regardless of whether a tropical storm forms or not, Florida and other locations in the southeastern U.S. will endure drenching showers and gusty thunderstorms much of this week to this weekend.
A general 2-4 inches of rain will pour down this week over much of the Florida Peninsula, the eastern part of the Florida Panhandle and southeastern Georgia. However, locally, double that amount of rain may fall in parts of the peninsula, which can lead to flooding in urban and low-lying areas. The rain will hinder outdoor plans and visits to Florida's theme parks.
But, the rain is not all bad news.
"The rain will be beneficial to some extent and will help to fight expanding drought conditions along Florida's Gulf coast," Buckingham said.
The zone from the western Caribbean to the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic coast is a perennial trouble spot for tropical storm formation in October. This happens as the main development zone, located over the central and eastern Atlantic due to tropical waves emerging off the coast of Africa, tends to shut down in terms of tropical activity.
Regardless of tropical development, the combination of high pressure settling along the Appalachians and the front along the coast will set up stiff northeast winds along the Atlantic coast for much of this week.
The winds will stir Atlantic waters and lead to rough surf, dangerous rip currents, beach erosion and moderate coastal flooding at times of high tide from New York to northeastern Florida. The conditions may hinder storm cleanup and cause further damage in the wake of Ophelia's direct impacts, Buckingham said.
Since Philippe has weakened, it has likely missed an avenue to escape to the north over the central Atlantic and may skirt the islands of the northern Caribbean later this week with drenching showers and locally gusty thunderstorms on its southern fringe.
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