Monday, October 17, 2011

A tropical storm, perhaps

A low pressure system centered near the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico could become a tropical storm today and almost certainly will bring very wet, raw weather to parts of the U.S. East Coast this week.

Meteorologists think the system eventually will merge with a strong cold front expected to cross the eastern United States late Tuesday and Wednesday, but the timing of any merger is still uncertain.

Any link-up between the tropical low and the cold front apparently won't happen until after the front has moved east of the Charlotte area, so it will be the coastal Carolinas -- not the Piedmont -- that feels the brunt of the rain.

On Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center said it still had not found and closed circulation in the low. The Hurricane Center is sending a reconnaissance jet into the storm this afternoon, however, and that could change things. Buoys and reporting stations in northeast Mexico, western Cuba, and the Florida Keys were reporting heavy rain and gusty winds Monday morning.

The best guess for this system (which would be named Rina, if it were to develop into a tropical storm):

It would form in the northeast Gulf of Mexico, then make landfall late Tuesday or Wednesday morning on Florida's Gulf coast, perhaps near Tampa. Top sustained winds are expected to be in the range of 50 or 60 mph. After that, Rina would cross Florida and then head up the East Coast, bringing several inches of rain and gusty winds to coastal Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

Eventually, the storm would move up the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts.