Flooding rains spread over Central America as disturbance moves inland

Invest 97L unlikely to develop, but heavy rainfall expected to bring widespread flooding and dangerous mudslides this weekend

Friday morning satellite showing the disturbance known as Invest 97L spreading heavy rains across portions of Central America and the western Caribbean. Credit: NOAA.

The disturbance we’ve been tracking all week moving through the Caribbean – tagged Invest 97L – will be moving inland over Central America by Saturday, bringing with it flooding rains and the potential for dangerous mudslides this weekend from Nicaragua and Honduras northward to Guatemala and Belize.

Fortunately, the disturbance was unable to capitalize on the ripe conditions over the past day or two that would normally support development. Mid-level relative humidity maxing out and nearly 90%, negligible wind shear, and water temperatures in the western Caribbean at record levels for the time of year are a dangerous cocktail, but the large size and broad nature of the disturbance appears to have softened its rate of organization. While 97L still has another 12 to 24 hours over water, it’s unlikely it’ll pull together as a tropical cyclone before the sprawling low-pressure area moves inland over Nicaragua.

The upshot of such a large and disorganized system is the potential for heavy rainfall across a wide region. Forecast models continue to advertise over a foot of rain locally – focused over northern Honduras, central Guatemala, and Belize – into early next week. The flash flood and mudslide threat will be greatest in areas of high terrain where the effects of the heavy rain are aggravated.

The broad spin associated with Invest 97L will continue westward into the eastern Pacific next week and is no threat to moving north or threatening the U.S.

Atlantic hurricane season quickly tapering off next week

As we discussed in Thursday’s newsletter, typically by this point in the Atlantic hurricane season, about 95% of tropical activity has passed.

With upper-level winds ramping up from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean to the tropical Atlantic, forecast models are showing tumbleweeds in the wake of 97L.

While it’s not out of the question, we may eke out one more named storm before the end of the month. The Atlantic should stay largely dormant, especially near the U.S., for the final weeks of the season.

About the Author:

Michael Lowry is Local 10's Hurricane Specialist and Storm Surge Expert.