Forecasters monitoring southwestern Gulf of Mexico for potential tropical development
An area of disturbed weather over Central America could become the Atlantic basin’s next tropical depression or storm over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico by this weekend. As the system moves along, portions of South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley may be hit by another round of heavy rain about one week after a tropical rainstorm struck the region, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.
The system was producing a mass of clouds, showers and thunderstorms over the northwestern Caribbean as of Wednesday. Meteorologists say steering breezes could carry this feature on a northwestward path through the end of this week.
In this image, captured on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, thunderstorms can be seen erupting over the northwestern Caribbean Sea, just offshore of Central America. (AccuWeather Enhanced RealVue™ satellite)
The track will take the system over portions of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and southeastern Mexico through Thursday. Interaction with land and hilly terrain is likely to prevent development in the short term, but downpours produced by the system can lead to dangerous flash flooding and mudslides in parts of the region.
The disturbance is likely to find its way into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico by Thursday night.
"Should the system stay over warm waters of the Gulf versus crawling along the coast of Mexico from Friday through Saturday, it could have enough time to organize, strengthen and reach tropical depression or storm status," AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz said.
AccuWeather meteorologists have upgraded the chance of tropical development of this disturbance to medium on Friday and Saturday when it is expected to drift over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.
Land interaction will again be part of the formula for the system's development chances. "If the disturbance takes a path that hugs the northeast Mexico coast, then it may be enough to deter significant strengthening," AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said. "But, if the storm forms over open waters in the southwest Gulf, there is a chance for rapid strengthening to occur."
The forward speed of the disturbance is another factor. If the system moves too fast while over the Gulf, it may not have time to organize.
Even if this system fails to become a tropical depression or storm, a batch of showers and thunderstorms is likely to travel into parts of South Texas from Saturday to Sunday. "The downpours can bring another boost in terms of drought relief to South Texas, but may also stir more trouble in terms of flooding," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Heather Zehr said.
Tropical moisture is likely to build along much of the western Gulf Coast region this weekend and some of that moisture can reach areas farther to the north in Texas and Louisiana in the form of heavy showers and thunderstorms.
A tropical rainstorm that originated over the western Gulf stopped just short of becoming a tropical depression prior to making landfall in Texas this past Sunday. That storm brought 5-10 inches of rain to the southern part of the state into Monday.
"Even though there will be about a week between storms, there is still a significant risk of renewed urban and low-lying area flooding with this next threat by early next week," Zehr said.
Along with the prospect of more heavy rainfall, rough surf and choppy seas are likely in part of the western Gulf Coast region this weekend.
Beyond Sunday and Monday, long-term track possibilities of this emerging tropical system range from a trip northwestward along the Rio Grande River to a more northward venture over Texas early next week. These possibilities depend on if the system is able to gain enough strength and then maintain some organization days after moving inland.
Much of central Texas could use a soaking rainfall, while areas farther northwest along the Rio Grande will face a higher flood risk as a result of the tropical rainstorm that moved through earlier this week. From June 1 through Aug. 17, San Antonio has received less than an inch of rain, compared to a normal of about 6.50 inches for the period.
Nearly 70% of the Lone Star State was in extreme drought with nearly 30% in exceptional drought as of last week's United States Drought Monitor report. However, conditions in South Texas may have improved slightly in the wake of the recent tropical rainstorm.
In response to torrential rain in part of the Big Bend area from Monday to Tuesday, the Rio Grande River at Foster Ranch, Texas, rose rapidly and crested at 26.82 feet on Tuesday.
(National Weather Service)
This crest was higher than the flood from July 10, 2010, when waters reached 21.54 feet at Foster Ranch.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, multiple batches of showers and thunderstorms from the southeastern coast of the United States to the north-central Atlantic will be watched for any signs of tropical development in the coming days. Stiff winds in the mid-levels of the atmosphere may act as a strong deterrent against development in this zone as well as much of the balance of the basin, according to AccuWeather's team of tropical weather experts.
There is one area far from the shores of the U.S. where tropical development is becoming more favorable. According to Kottlowski, atmospheric conditions over Africa are becoming conducive enough for more robust tropical waves, which are the precursor to tropical storms, to organize.
"It looks like a significant chance for tropical development near the Cabo Verde Islands next week," Kottlowski said, "And, there could be more than one storm that tries to take shape."
The weather pattern in place this summer has helped suppress tropical wave activity across the deserts of northern Africa. These atmospheric conditions are forecast to move out over the Atlantic and could spur tropical development in the area between Africa and the Caribbean over the next week.
The second half of August usually brings a noticeable uptick in tropical development that persists well into September. The Atlantic hurricane season will officially conclude on Nov. 30.
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