Forecasters say Floridians should monitor a system likely to become a tropical depression as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico by early next week.
The area of low pressure over the northwestern Caribbean Sea was producing showers and thunderstorms, according to a Friday evening update from the National Hurricane Center. Conditions favor slow development over the next several days, and forecasters expect the system will become a tropical depression late this weekend or early next week while moving north over the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
The system has a 50% chance of formation in the next two days and an 80% chance in the next week.
Michael Brennan, the National Hurricane Center director, said in a live video Friday that it’s possible a tropical depression or tropical storm could impact the Florida peninsula early next week.
“There is a lot of uncertainty with this system since it’s yet to take shape,” Brennan said. “What we’re most confident in is that there will likely be some rainfall impacts across much of the Florida Peninsula and possibly up along the southeast coast of the United States.”
An aircraft reconnaissance may investigate the system later this weekend, Brennan said.
The potential threat for Florida would come around Tuesday, said Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science.
McNoldy said Friday that global models are in agreement that the system will develop slowly. The hurricane center on Friday gave the system the temporary name of Invest 93L, meaning forecasters will collect specialized data and run more models.
While potential impacts to the Tampa Bay area are days away, it’s worth watching through the weekend, according to Mark Luther, an associate professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science.
Ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are running about 1 degree Celsius above normal right now, particularly in the eastern gulf, where the storm is currently forecast to cross, Luther said.
Tropical systems like to feed off that hot water, especially when it’s hot below the surface like it is now, Luther said.
“Keep a sharp eye on it and have your hurricane plan in place,” Luther said. “Even if it’s a small storm, if it hits at the right angle it can cause flooding around here.”
Storms that cross through this steamy section of the eastern gulf have historically intensified quickly, Luther said. He pointed to Hurricane Michael in 2018, which emerged off the Yucatán Peninsula before ultimately making landfall as a Category 5 storm in Florida’s Panhandle.
Regardless of development, the system is predicted to bring increased moisture to Tampa Bay next week, the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office said Thursday. Jeff Masters, a meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections, said the system will bring heavy rains of 3 to 5 inches to the Tampa area from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Forecasters are watching four other systems in the Atlantic: Tropical Storm Franklin and three disturbances.
Franklin is likely to become a hurricane early next week as it makes a sharp turn toward the north and picks up speed Saturday.
In the central Atlantic, forecasters said Friday evening that the remnants of Tropical Storm Emily are believed to have been absorbed by a low-pressure area and a tropical cyclone is not likely to re-form.
Forecasters say another central Atlantic system several hundred miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands could become a tropical depression by early next week as it moves northwest in the Atlantic. The system has a 40% chance of formation over the next week.
In the eastern Atlantic, forecasters were watching a tropical wave that has a low chance of formation in the next week.
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