By Alex Sosnowski, Senior Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com
AccuWeather Global Headquarters – October 04, 2017 – AccuWeather reports Tropical Depression 16 has formed just southeast of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua as of late Wednesday morning, and it may rapidly develop into a tropical storm or hurricane then threaten the central to northeastern Gulf of Mexico coast this weekend.
Because of the proximity to land in Central America, people may have little time to react and prepare for a tropical storm or hurricane.
The tropical depression may evolve into a tropical storm at any time as it wanders toward the north-northwest and near the Yucatan Peninsula into Friday.
The next name on the list of tropical storms in the Atlantic for 2017 is Nate.
“Any tropical system in this area is likely to drift in a general northward direction, which will take it over the Gulf of Mexico by this weekend,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
The U.S. Gulf coast areas from Florida to Alabama, Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana may be at risk for damaging winds, coastal flooding, rough surf and beach erosion this weekend and into early next week.
“In all likelihood, this storm will impact areas not severely impacted by Harvey or Irma. The extent of the damage will depend, of course, on the precise path and whether the storm intensifies beyond a Category 1 storm,” AccuWeather Founder, President and Chairman Dr. Joel N. Myers said. “The most likely place for it to hit is the Florida Panhandle.”
How serious the impacts are and exactly which areas are hardest hit by winds, waves and flooding will depend on the strength and track of the system.
“Since the system will be moving over very warm waters, we could quickly have a powerful hurricane on our hands,” Kottlowski said.
A storm that reaches Category 1 status has the potential to reach Category 2 or 3 (major hurricane) status in a matter of hours.
The most likely area for rapid strengthening will be the stretch of water north of Honduras and east of Belize. Another area where the storm may quickly ramp up in intensity is over the south-central Gulf of Mexico.
People in the potential path may want to have a plan in order and gather necessities in case a strengthening hurricane takes aim at their community.
“There is the potential for a tropical storm or hurricane to make landfall along the Gulf coast from southeastern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle this weekend.”
People in Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, southeastern Mexico, the Cayman Islands, western Cuba and the United States’ northern and eastern Gulf coast should keep up to date on the situation.
Even a weak tropical system could bring torrential rainfall and flash flooding.
“In lieu of a strong tropical system or flooding, beneficial rain may extend across the interior eastern U.S. next week, which could ease abnormally dry and building drought conditions in some locations,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun.
Areas from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Central America and the islands in the central and western Caribbean will experience rounds of showers and thunderstorms, due to a broad area of disturbed weather over the next couple of weeks.
In addition to the risk from the current tropical system near Central America, there is another area to watch toward the middle of the month.
“We will be monitoring the southern and central Caribbean for possible development around the third week of October,” Kottlowski said.
Any system that forms in that part of the Caribbean would move toward the very warm water and likely strengthen just east of the Yucatan Peninsula.
“The Atlantic basin may yield one more major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricane, which would bring the 2017 seasonal total to five,” Kottlowski said.
The Atlantic basin includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
AccuWeather is projecting a total of 17 tropical storms, which includes 11 hurricanes, through December 2017 in the Atlantic. Hurricane season officially ends at the end of November.
Including Maria, there have been 13 tropical storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes thus far.
“To stay safe, we urge people to keep checking AccuWeather.com and their AccuWeather apps for the latest developments,” Myers said.