The first storm of Atlantic hurricane season may arrive in time for the first week of the season, and it’s not coming from where you would expect.
The remnants of what was once Hurricane Agatha in the Pacific Ocean earlier this week is now expected to become Tropical Storm Alex in the Gulf of Mexico by Thursday, making it the first named storm of the hurricane season. of the Atlantic 2022.
Hurricane Agatha made landfall Monday in southwestern Mexico as a Category 2 storm that toppled power lines and dumped up to 20 inches of rain. It’s not expected to pack the same punch when its remnants enter the Gulf of Mexico later this week, but local weather forecasters are still warning Tampa Bay residents to beware as the area is close to the predicted trajectory of the system.
The system Tuesday afternoon was given a 70% chance of developing into a tropical storm or depression by the National Hurricane Center. The center expects the storm to cross the Gulf of Mexico toward Florida’s southern Gulf Coast by the end of the week.
However, there’s no cause for concern at this time, said Paul Close of the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office. The system is still disorganized and its future is therefore particularly uncertain. Three models predict the storm will hit Charlotte or Sarasota counties, just south of Tampa Bay. Others predict that the system will never leave the Mexican mainland.
Close warns, however, that the already warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico mean the system could grow rapidly and surprise some residents.
“Advice at this point is really everywhere,” Close said. “People here should check in at least twice a day. If it develops, it could happen quickly.
If the storm was concentrated on Florida’s west coast, Close says the region would begin to feel impacts Friday night through Saturday. Regardless of whether or not Alex hosts a tropical storm, the National Hurricane Center says the entire west coast of Florida should brace for four to six inches of rain this weekend.
Close indicates that few storms pass from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Basin, which also makes this system harder to predict than usual.
Transoceanic storms are rare in the tropics because most dissipate as they pass over the rugged lands of Central America and Mexico, but these storms are not completely unknown.
The most recent system whose remnants survived after making landfall and became a named storm in a new ocean basin emerged last year. Hurricane Grace, which formed in the Atlantic, had mostly dissipated over Mexico before crossing the Pacific Ocean and organizing into Tropical Storm Marty.
It’s not as common for storms to jump from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Basin, but it did happen in 2020 when Tropical Storm Amanda moved through Guatemala and Belize to become Tropical Storm Cristobal in the Bay of Campeche.
Despite being the remnants of Hurricane Agatha, this system will get its own name because it failed to sustain circulation as it crossed Mexico, according to meteorologist Matthew Cappucci of The Washington Post. If it remained organized, the system would keep Agatha’s name even after it entered the Gulf of Mexico.
Early season tropical systems are often weak because the Atlantic Ocean still lacks the warm water needed to support them. Close said the Gulf of Mexico is already above 80 degrees off the coast of Florida, which is warm enough for a system to develop into at least one tropical storm.
“The water is warm enough and for now that’s all she really needs,” Close said.
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Growing threat: a special report on flood risk and climate change
PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times has teamed up with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.
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INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the risk of hurricane flooding.