The National Hurricane Center is keeping a close eye on Invest 97L out in the Caribbean Sea. The low pressure system has a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression within the next two days.
The latest computer projections for Invest 97L show possible landfall sites anywhere from the coast of Louisiana to the west coast of Florida.
The National Hurricane Center upped chances of a possible tropical depression or storm forming within the next two days to 70 percent Wednesday afternoon.
The NHC said an area of low pressure, aka Invest 97L, located over the northwestern Caribbean Sea, is becoming better organized and the system has the potential to develop into a tropical depression anytime within the next couple of days.
The low is expected to move northwestward toward the Yucatan Peninsula later today and into the southern Gulf of Mexico tonight or Thursday. The disturbance is expected to encounter strong upper-level winds limiting development as the storm moves into the northern Gulf of Mexico this weekend.
The NHC maintains odds of 70 percent that the low will become a tropical cyclone over the next five days. If it does become a tropical storm, its name would be Karen. An Air Force Reserve unit hurricane hunter aircraft was in route to investigate the system Wednesday afternoon.
Pinellas County Emergency Management cautioned residents to stay prepared for possible tropical weather in October, which is the third busiest month for hurricane development. More than 16 percent of all storms have formed in October.
“When cold fronts blow out of Canada, bringing cooler air to our neighbors up north, the winds they generate tend to pick gulf storms up and push them from west to east making Florida’s west coast particularly vulnerable,” Tom Iovino, public information specialist with county Communications, said in a press release.
The last time Pinellas County took a direct hit from a hurricane was Oct. 25, 1921. On Oct. 7, 1996, Tropical Storm Josephine caused flooding along the county’s beaches and swept a “tremendous amount of sand onto Gulf Boulevard,” Iovino said.
Hurricane Wilma, which make landfall on Oct. 24, 2005, broke several records, eventually becoming the most intense hurricane recorded in the Atlantic Basin.
Iovino said that since October storms form much closer to the county, the warning time could be considerably shorter than storms forming in August and September. Residents are urged to visit www.pinellascounty.org/emegency to verify evacuation levels and get information on disaster planning.
While it is still too soon to tell with any certainty, computer-generated tracking maps of potential paths for Invest 97L, should it develop, show it making landfall anywhere from the coast of Louisiana to the west coast of Florida. Residents are urged to keep tuned to the latest weather forecasts.
Renowned hurricane forecasters Phillip Klotzbach and William Gray, professors with the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, released their latest forecast Sept. 27 for a period lasting through Oct. 10. The forecast is for below-average amounts of hurricane activity through the period.
“The most recent seasonal forecast called for an above-normal season,” the Colorado experts said. “Obviously, at this point, we realize that the seasonal forecast was a significant over-prediction, and we therefore do not expect to see the levels of activity this year that we earlier anticipated.”
But, it only takes one – that’s the anthem emergency management personnel and meteorologists sing ever hurricane season, which is June 1 to Nov. 30 for the Atlantic basin. Residents who live in areas vulnerable to hurricanes are urged to stay ready and be ready to put emergency plans into action if necessary.
The Atlantic basin includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
It was Sept. 11 before the first hurricane of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season formed. Three days later, a second hurricane formed about 195 miles east of Tuxpan Mexico.
The first hurricane of the season, Humberto, had become a post-tropical cyclone as of Sept. 14. It became a tropical storm again on Sept. 16 and maintained its strength until Sept. 19 when it was downgraded into a tropical depression. Humberto remained over open water for its entire life cycle.
Ingrid formed as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph on Sept. 14. It made landfall on the Mexican coast Sept. 16.
According to NHC records, 2013 is the first year since 2002 that no hurricane formed through the month of August. Records show that on average at least one hurricane forms in a season by Aug. 10.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate experts have predicted that as many as six to nine hurricanes could form during the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. As of Sept. 13, nine named storms have formed. NOAA’s forecast calls for 13 to 19.
Andrea was the season’s first tropical storm. It formed June 5 in the east-central Gulf of Mexico. Andrea had winds of about 65 mph when it made landfall in Dixie County about 10 miles south of Steinhatchee about 5:40 p.m. June 7. Andrea brought wind and rain to Pinellas County, causing minor damage to the beaches. Rain bands from the storm spawned a tornado that touched down in Gulfport the morning of June 6.
Tropical Storm Barry started as a tropical depression on Monday, June 17, as it approached the coast of Belize on the northeastern coast of Central America. It strengthened into a tropical storm June 19 in the southern Gulf of Mexico and made landfall along the coast of Mexico June 20.
The third tropical storm was short-lived. Chantal formed July 7 over the central tropical Atlantic Ocean and degenerated into a tropical wave July 10.
Dorian was the fourth tropical storm of 2013. It formed the morning of July 24 in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean. It was downgraded to a tropical depression July 27.
Erin brought the count to five. It started as a depression on Aug. 15 and strengthened into a tropical storm the same day. Erin was downgraded back to a depression on Aug. 16, strengthened into a storm again on Aug. 17 before wind speeds decreased and Erin’s status returned to a depression.
Tropical Storm Fernand began as tropical depression six on Aug. 25 in the southwest Gulf of Mexico and strengthened into a named storm that same day. It made landfall Aug. 26 along the coast of Mexico.
Gabrielle was another short-lived storm, forming Sept. 5 and dissipating the next day. However, the storm regenerated Sept. 10, taking aim at Bermuda. The storm was downgraded to a depression on Sept. 13.
The peak months of the Atlantic basin hurricane season are August through October, and about 55 percent of tropical storms and hurricanes form during the months of September and October. Pinellas County’s Emergency Management Department reminds residents that strong and destructive storms such as last year’s Hurricane Sandy, 2005s Wilma and the 1921 Tampa Bay Hurricane all made landfall in October.
“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” said Tom Iovino, with Pinellas County Communications.