Its that time of year again, the peak of hurricane season and the tropics are making sure we all remember it! The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is currently monitoring three systems, Tropical Storm Laura, Tropical Storm Marco, and a tropical wave near Africa. The next names on the list after Marco are Nana and Omar.
The 2020 hurricane season has been incredibly active and we are still a few weeks away from the climatological peak of September 11. 2020 has already broken the record for the earliest K-named storm in the Atlantic basin since records have been kept.
If enough storms develop and we go through the whole list, we then go to the Greek alphabet. Can you guess what year is the only one we had to go to the Greek alphabet so far? 2005, which is the year when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast.
The Forecast Cone (“Cone of Uncertainty”): How To Read and Use It Correctly
If you watch tropical weather coverage on KNWA/FOX24 or another station, you probably heard the meteorologist refer to the “cone of uncertainty”. This cone is a forecast of the storm center’s movement and position at a certain time in the future and created by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.
Looking at the cone, it starts narrow and then begins to spread out the farther into the future you go. This is because we introduce more uncertainty into a forecast the farther out you go (same thing happens in everyday forecasts).
A common error is thinking if you are outside the forecast cone, then you are in the clear and won’t see any impacts. THIS IS NOT TRUE!
The cone is a forecast for where the center of the storm will go, but these storms can expand for hundreds of miles in size. Impacts will be felt much farther outside the cone. So, if you and your family are just outside the cone, you need still need to prepare and watch the storm forecast closely.
Tropical Storm Laura
Tropical Storm Laura is currently located about 40 miles E of Antigua and is expected to pass very close and over the islands over the next 12-24 hours.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for portions of the Leeward Islands, British & U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Dominican Republic. This means tropical storm conditions can be expected within the next 24-36 hours.
Tropical storm watches are in effect for northern Turks & Caicos and southeast Bahamas. Tropical storm-force winds (39-73 mph) can be expected in these areas within the next 48-hours. The main threats with Laura include storm surge, flooding rain, mudslides, and damaging winds.
The current track takes the storm over Puerto Rico tomorrow morning before passing near or over Hispaniola. This is key for intensity forecasts! Hispaniola is extremely mountainous, which can cause storms to weaken. However, if the center of the storm stays off-shore, the storm can strengthen as it moves over warm ocean water. This can have a downstream affect.
If the storm goes over the island, it also has a better chance of impacting Cuba, another mountainous island. If the storm takes a more easterly track and stays over warmer water, it is likely the strength will be a bit higher than current forecasts suggest. It also increases the chance for a Florida landfall.
The biggest amount of uncertainty is in the Gulf of Mexico. The water is extremely warm, providing a lot of potential fuel for the storm. If Laura taps into this potential, the storm could easily become a strong category 1, maybe higher storm.
There is still a lot of uncertainty with the exact timing and strength of the storm. Depending on the exact track, Laura could make landfall in the Florida keys sometime Monday and another landfall along the Gulf Coast on Wednesday.
Tropical Storm Marco
Tropical Depression 14 is churning in the western Caribbean and Gulf of Honduras, just 210 miles SE of Cozumel, Mexico. The NHC forecasts the storm to become Tropical Storm Marco later this evening. Due to the expected strength of the storm when it reaches the Yucatán Peninsula, tropical storm warnings have been issued.
After bringing heavy rain, strong wind, and storm surge to the Yucatán Peninsula, the storm is will move northwest into the very warm Gulf of Mexico. Current forecasts have the storm reaching hurricane status but weakening right before landfall in the United States.
Latest forecasts have a landfall along the Texas-Louisiana coastline. While the exact timing is still uncertain, it looks like a U.S. landfall could occur between late Monday night and Wednesday morning. This could be very close to the same time as the U.S. landfall for Laura.
Could We See A Double U.S. Landfall?
The short answer: possibly but probably not. Latest track puts Marco in Texas roughly 12-18 hours ahead of Laura. Either Marco will need to move slower than its forecasted speed or Laura will need to speed up.
In 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, two hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. on September 4, 1933 (National Weather Service Miami, FL Office).
Referred to as the “Cuba-Brownsville Hurricane”, a category 3 storm hit south Texas with heavy rain, very strong winds, and storm surge. On the other side of the Gulf and across Florida, the “Treasure Coast Hurricane” brought torrential rain and storm surge to eastern Florida.
The last time we had two storms in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time was in 1959. However, we have had a few close-calls as recent as 2004. According to the NWS in Miami, Tropical Storm Bonnie made landfall in Florida just 16-hours before Hurricane Charley moved into the Gulf of Mexico after impacted Cuba.
Impacts in NW Arkansas?
Currently, impacts in northwest Arkansas are unclear but possible. The storm to watch will be Tropical Storm Marco.
If the storm takes a more westerly track, rain from the system could impact Northwest Arkansas midweek next week.
Stay tuned to your NWA Weather Authority as we track the topics and keep you updated!