The system is expected to move across southern Florida tonight and early Saturday before emerging in the Gulf of Mexico later in the day. The current forecast from NHC is for the system to become a tropical storm over the weekend in the Gulf, but they don’t rule out the possibility of it happening tonight before it moves into Florida.
For that reason, a Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the coast of southeastern Florida from south of Jupiter Inlet to north of Ocean Reef. Regardless of whether the storm is named, it will bring rain in the order of 1 to 3 inches for central and southern Florida through Saturday. Some areas might see as much as 5 inches.
The system is expected to move to the northwest and steadily strengthen from Sunday into early next week. The current forecast from the National Hurricane Center is for this system to become a strong tropical storm, although they say this forecast may be conservative and “not to be surprised if that is revised upward” to a hurricane in later forecasts.
Unfortunately, the steering pattern for Tropical Depression Nineteen is not very clear. “The uncertainty in the track forecast is much larger than normal beyond 48 hours,” according to the hurricane center.
“As a result, the risk of seeing direct impacts from this system extends well outside the cone of uncertainty, even more so than usual in this case,” the hurricane center says.
Most forecast models have the system moving toward the northern Gulf Coast between New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle by late Monday or Tuesday, but then the steering patterns break down and the system meanders near the coast.
Whether the meandering is offshore prior to a landfall or onshore will make all the difference in terms of the impacts. In either case, this will be one to watch in the coming days because slow moving tropical systems can bring extreme flooding.
When this system gains enough strength to be a tropical storm, it will earn one of the next names on the list.
Paulette and Rene are currently located over the central Atlantic Ocean and pose no immediate threat to land and aren’t forecast to come near the US.
This means if the system over southern Florida forms, it would likely be either Sally or Teddy, depending on whether one of the other possible development areas in Atlantic gets named first. There are currently three other areas they are watching for development.
If any of these forms, they will be the earliest 18th and possibly 19th, or even earliest 20th named storms to form.