It started as a trough of weak low pressure — the remnants of an old frontal boundary — listing southward in the atmosphere above Georgia with little actual impact on weather at the ground level.
But as it pulled south, the system, known as Invest 92L, began to organize, helping pull in tropical moisture and a little extra rain across the Florida peninsula. Now that Invest 92L has drifted over the Gulf of Mexico, it's expected to become a tropical depression by Wednesday's end and has hurricane potential, according to the National Weather Service.
"Certainly there is a potential for this to become a hurricane before it makes landfall," Weather Service forecaster Ernie Jillson said.
As of the National Hurricane Center's 1 p.m. update, Invest 92L is beginning to organize over the northeastern Gulf southwest of Apalachicola. The Hurricane Center currently forecasts the system could develop into a numbered tropical depression by the end Wednesday or early Thursday. The chance of formation within two days is now 100 percent, as of the weather service's latest update.
From there, forecasters can determine the track and likelihood of Invest 92L becoming Tropical Storm — possibly even Hurricane — Barry.
"The conditions are there for something to form from this relatively weak disturbance," Hurricane Center forecaster Stacy Stewart told the Tampa Bay Times Monday, as the disturbance headed toward the Gulf.
Stewart said warmer-than-average waters will act as fuel for Invest 92L, allowing it to build, possibly quickly, as it heads west over the Gulf. The most significant areas of concern are Louisiana and Texas, where the Hurricane Center warns residents to be alert for hurricane and storm surge watches. There is little-to-no concern of a storm shifting east and making landfall in Florida, but even if it did, it wouldn't have a chance to strengthen into anything significant, Stewart said.
That doesn't mean Florida is completely in the clear. The system has pulled lots of extra rainy, stormy weather into Florida and the Tampa Bay area this week and should continue to do so until Thursday or Friday. Once the storm builds, stormy weather will concentrate to the west, pulling drier air over Florida and returning the Sunshine State to its typical summer shower pattern.
Additionally, Jillson said, tropical development could create winds that drive large waves to our shores, creating dangerous rip currents under deceptively calm skies.
"You might wake up to a nice sunny morning and say, 'it’s a great beach day, lets head to the beach,' but there can be some strong, dangerous currents that can pull swimmers out," he said. "It’s hard to say when they’ll get stronger. That depends on how fast this system intensifies, but this could continue through the weekend."
The formation of the storm itself is somewhat of an anomaly. Most tropical systems begin with tropical waves from the western coasts of Africa. That happens about 70 percent of the time, Stewart said. The other 30 percent is usually from disturbances over the Atlantic. It's not common to see something with this potential form over the mainland U.S.
“It just happens that normally we see these further to the east over the Atlantic,” he said, “but nature doesn't have any boundaries. It's happened before, and it will happen again.”
2019 TAMPA BAY TIMES HURRICANE GUIDE
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