MIAMI – The tropical system developing in the northern Gulf of Mexico is forecast to strengthen and then make landfall in Louisiana, Texas or Mississippi at or near hurricane strength over the weekend. Otherwise, the tropics are quiet.
A tropical depression is expected to form Wednesday in the Gulf of Mexico more or less south of Pensacola. The steering winds will take it toward the west, away from Florida, into a moderately favorable atmospheric environment for strengthening.
Over the very warm Gulf waters, the system is likely to become Tropical Storm Barry, and Hurricane Barry cannot be ruled out.
It is important to remember that forecasts for poorly organized, developing systems are, on average, significantly worse than those for well-defined tropical storms or hurricanes. With that in mind, current indications are that Barry will make landfall in extreme northeastern Texas, Louisiana or Mississippi between late Friday and early Sunday.
Given the profile of the steering winds, the stronger Barry gets, the farther west it is likely to track.
Rainfall is expected to be a significant threat near and to the right of where the storm makes landfall.
Obviously, if Barry dramatically intensifies, wind and storm surge will bring additional significant risks.
Louisiana is especially vulnerable to heavy rain. The Mississippi River is already near flood stage because of heavy spring rain farther north. Strong winds from Barry blowing upriver would aggravate that problem by slowing the river's flow, not to mention the major threat of flooding due to torrential rain.
By Wednesday night or Thursday, when we see exactly where the organized circulation develops, we can have more confidence in the forecasts.
In addition, the National Hurricane Center will likely issue tropical storm, hurricane, and/or storm surge watches for the northwestern Gulf Coast later Wednesday.
Elsewhere, the Atlantic and the Caribbean are expected to be free of tropical development at least through the weekend.