Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tropical activity possible in Gulf

The area between Cuba and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula that bred two early tropical storms this season might be primed to create another.

A large area of thunderstorms between the Yucatan and western Cuba is showing signs of slow development, and the National Hurricane Center is giving it a 30 percent chance of turning into a tropical system in the next few days.

The chances of such a system having an impact on the Carolinas are low, but definitely not zero.

We'll look at the facts first, and then get into the conjecture.

The facts are that strong upper-level winds in the Gulf of Mexico are preventing the thunderstorms from organizing. However, the National Hurricane Center's Lt. Cmdr. Dave Roberts (he's a Navy meteorologist working with the Hurricane Center) says the winds are expected to relax in the next day or two. That opens the possibility of the system organizing.

Meteorologists expect the area of storms to drift slowly northward into the Gulf by later in the week.

That's where the guessing begins.

Some computer models predict the system will organize and move northeast across Florida and then somewhere along or near the Carolinas coast. That would be similar to the path of Tropical Storm Beryl in late May. And that could mean some lousy weather for people headed to the beach next week.

Other computer models predict the system would meander in the Gulf, searching for some type of steering current to move it along. Very little in the way of steering currents is expected by late in the week across the Gulf.

And possibility No. 3 calls for the system to drift far enough north to be caught in a trough that is predicted to develop across the central United States by the weekend. In that scenario, the tropical system would weaken but would be carried northeast -- somewhere over the Southeast (could be Mississippi into Tennessee; could be Alabama and Georgia, into the Carolinas) -- next week.

The likely scenario at this time of year would be for the system to drift across the Gulf.

But with so many people vacationing along the Gulf and up the Southeast coast at this time, of year, it'll be worth watching.

UPDATE AT 2:45 P.M. ...

It looks more like a Texas-Louisiana problem. The Hurricane Center now gives the system a 50 percent chance of developing, and more of the computer models are coming in line with a slow northwest drift. That could put a tropical storm along the Texas Gulf Coast by the weekend.