Gulf Coast residents need to pay attention as not one, but two tropical systems could impact the area in the coming days.
Tropical Depression 14 was nearing the coast of Honduras Friday morning, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to veer northwest and cut across the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Sunday, possibly at or near hurricane force. A hurricane watch was in effect for the strip of coast containing Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun, as well as Cozumel island.
From there, the long-term forecast track would carry it to the U.S. Gulf Coast, perhaps Texas or Louisiana, by Tuesday or Wednesday — again, possibly, as a hurricane
En route, it's likely to soak flood-prone eastern Honduras, the Cayman Islands and parts of the Yucatan.
On Friday morning, it was centered about 160 miles (255 kilometers) east of the Honduran resort island of Roatan with 35 mph (55 kph) winds. It was headed west-northwest at 12 mph (19 kph).
Meanwhile, Tropical Depression 13 was nearing the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico as a disorganized storm with a very uncertain future. The Hurricane Center said it might degenerate, or it might blow up into a major hurricane headed for Florida and the Gulf Coast.
The current forecast track, also highly uncertain, would carry it just north of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, across the Bahamas and then to southern Florida by Monday or Tuesday and the Gulf Coast.
On Friday morning, it was centered about 255 miles (415 kilometers) east of the northern Leeward Islands and was heading west-northwest at 21 mph (33 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph).
In the Pacific, former Category 4 Hurricane Genevieve was weakening and heading further out to sea after a glancing blow to the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, where it caused at least two deaths and knocked out power to a large part of the Los Cabos area.
The Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Genevieve had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) and was centered about 145 miles (235 kilometers) west of Cabo San Lazaro, Mexico.
It was heading west-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).
An extra focus on the Gulf of Mexico
Interestingly, TD-13 and TD-14 are headed to the Gulf of Mexico. The next two names on the list are Laura and Marco. Which depression gets Laura, and which one gets Marco depends only on which storm develops faster.
"The longer-term forecast for TD13 looks to be complicated by the presence of another tropical system [TD 14] in the Gulf of Mexico next week," said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. "Another tropical system spinning in the Gulf will make the forecast track less certain, as tropical storms and hurricanes in close range of each other can alter the winds in the atmosphere and influence each others' tracks."
So have we ever had two tropical storm strength systems simultaneously in the Gulf of Mexico before?
It has been 60 years since it has happened, said tropical researcher Phil Klotzbach. That occurred on June 18, 1959, to be exact.
"On that date, we had an unnamed tropical storm (e.g., added after the season) and Beulah," Klotzbach said. "We have never had two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously."
As of now, these systems are still several days away from impacting the US, so there is a lot that could change. However, since there are two systems at play here, essentially everything from Texas to Florida is an option.
We are still weeks away from peak of hurricane season
TD-13 and TD-14 are both expected to become tropical storms in the next few days. When that happens, they would be the fastest 12th and 13th storms to form, breaking additional records for most storms this early in the season. To have had so many named storms this far before the peak is unprecedented.
What's more concerning is that 85% of major hurricanes (Category 3 and above) occur after August 20.
"We typically do not have 11 named storms until November 23, across the Atlantic Ocean," said CNN meteorologist Haley Brink. "Come peak hurricane season in September, the prevailing tropical storm tracks increase across the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, in addition to storm formation originating off the coast of Africa."
Above-average sea surface temperatures are providing the necessary fuel for the development of tropical cyclone formations. An enhanced La Niña Watch was also issued last week, which could also contribute to enhanced hurricane activity.
There are a lot of comparisons out there to the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. Not only is this year's hurricane season currently on pace to match the number of named storms in 2005, it also happened to be a year where La Niña developed in the autumn.
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