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Two more tropical disturbances could develop in the Atlantic

Two tropical disturbances in the Atlantic are close to forming and could become named storms. One off the east coast of Florida could develop into a tropical depression, while another could form in the Gulf of Mexico and bring heavy rains to areas of northeastern Mexico hard hit by Tropical Storm Alberto.

These systems develop just a day after Alberto made landfall near Tampico, Mexico, bringing widespread rainfall of 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) in Mexico and significant flooding along the Texas coast. The Associated Press reported four deaths related to flooding from Alberto in Mexico.

This new pair of systems could bring downpours, gusty winds, and minor coastal storm surges near coastal areas.

Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters were studying the system off Florida's Atlantic coast Friday morning, but the National Hurricane Center said the system had not yet organized enough to develop into a depression. “However, even a small increase in the organization of showers and thunderstorms could lead to the formation of a short-lived tropical depression before it reaches the coast of northeast Florida or Georgia this evening,” the Hurricane Center wrote.

The area from Hilton Head, South Carolina, to Daytona Beach, Florida, could see some gusty showers from this system Friday night into Saturday.

Experts continue to warn that the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could be one to remember. Record-high sea surface temperatures combined with favorable, weakened upper-altitude winds associated with an emerging La Niña phenomenon could favor the development of more and more intense tropical storms and hurricanes.

Early Friday, a low-pressure vortex was hovering about 150 miles east-southeast of Jacksonville, Florida. By Thursday, it was a “naked vortex,” meaning there was a clear low-level circulation but no thunderstorms near its center, leaving the swirling cloud pattern exposed and visible from above.

A closed circulation is a prerequisite for a tropical depression or tropical storm. But two other things must also happen. Wind speeds must exceed 62 km/h to qualify as a tropical storm (less for a tropical depression). There must also be convection or thunderstorms and downpours near the center of the system.

Models indicate the low pressure system will approach Florida on Friday night, but dry air moving into the low will prevent it from maturing. As a result, only scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected in northeast Florida, coastal Georgia, and perhaps southeastern South Carolina. 1-2 inches of rain are possible in some spots in multiple downpours, mostly between the second half of Friday and Saturday.

Winds should be moderate, with gusts of 30 to 35 mph on the beaches. Surf rip currents could be a concern, but no major coastal flooding is expected.

The National Hurricane Center also indicates a developing low pressure system over the Yucatan Peninsula. It is drifting northwestward and will encounter favorable conditions for development in the Bay of Campeche.

The system will have a short window, roughly Friday evening into Saturday afternoon, to take advantage of warm ocean temperatures in the far southwest Gulf of Mexico. It should then make landfall north of Veracruz, Mexico, and affect that area as well as Tamaulipas.

Assuming the system intensifies as expected and regardless of whether it gets a name, a storm surge – a rise in ocean water over normally dry land – of up to several feet and coastal wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph are likely.

Weather models also predict that Saturday will be mostly 4 to 8 inches of rain, with localized totals of 10 to 12 inches. This could trigger isolated flooding. The Hurricane Center currently estimates that the probability of such flooding is 60 percent.

Some showers and storms from this system could also reach as far south as Texas over the weekend.

Anna Harden

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