Saturday, June 26, 2010

....Tropical Storm to Swirl Into Gulf Next Week....

June 26) -- Tropical Storm Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic basin hurricane season, has formed in the northwestern Caribbean. The storm will bring heavy rain and wind to parts of Central America, the Yucatan Peninsula and western Caribbean islands this weekend and will likely redevelop in the southern Gulf of Mexico next week, possibly becoming the first hurricane of the season.

As of early Saturday morning, Alex, located 225 miles to the east of Belize, has a sustained wind of 40 mph. Tropical Storm warnings are in effect for the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and the the coast of Belize, as well as some of islands in the western Caribbean.

Heavy rain is often the greatest threat to life and property with a tropical storm, and that's the case with Tropical Storm Alex. As it slowly moves northwestward toward a landfall in northern Belize or the Yucatan Peninsula, more than six inches of rain is possible over a broad area in the Yucatan, Central America and Caribbean Islands. Local amounts of greater than 10 inches are possible.

This amount of rain falling during a relatively short time can result in serious flash flooding and mudslides.

Questions for U.S. interests include where the storm will re-emerge after landfall, whether the system will be able to then intensify into the first hurricane of the season and whether it will affect the region of the Gulf dealing with the massive oil spill.

Meteorologists do not have the answers to those questions yet.

"The greatest nightmare with this storm approaching is that it takes this oil on the surface of the Gulf and blows it over the barrier islands into the bays and the estuaries," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told CNN. "And that is where you really get the enormous destruction, because it's just very difficult to clean up those pristine bays."

The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center is for the remnants of Alex, most likely having weakened back to a tropical depression, to move into the southern Gulf of Mexico on Sunday night or early Monday.

The much warmer-than-normal water in the Gulf of Mexico and upper-level conditions generally conducive for tropical development make it likely that Alex would regain at least tropical storm strength, if not hurricane strength if it remains over the water long enough. The storm would most likely need at least 24 hours to return to tropical storm strength.

The track of Alex if it intensifies in the Gulf is not clear-cut.

The most likely course is for the storm to track northwestward rather than a more northeastward track toward the spill area. However, the more eastward track remains possible if the storm is strongly influenced by a slight dip in the jet stream over the eastern part of the United States than currently appears likely.

Details of the track cannot be pinpointed with confidence until forecasters have more information about where and when the storm moves into Gulf of Mexico, so all of residents and business owners along the Gulf Coast will need to remain advised of the latest forecast information.

In addition to Tropical Storm Alex, forecasters are monitoring a second area of disturbed weather -- just east of the Leeward Islands -- for possible development.

June is considered early in the season for tropical storms and hurricanes, but active seasons often start early. The first named storm of the relatively quiet 2009 season, Tropical Storm Ana, did not form until August 11.