A low pressure system that could become the second named storm of the young 2019 hurricane season was expected to swamp the Gulf Coast region with drenching rain this week, forecasters said.
The system was expected to form into a tropical depression by Thursday — and possibly into a hurricane — bringing the Gulf region’s first encounter with an organized system a little more than a month into hurricane season.
If the storm’s wind speeds reaches at least 39 mph it will become Tropical Storm Barry.
The National Hurricane Center was expecting the broad low-pressure system that was located over the eastern Florida Panhandle on Tuesday morning to move to the southwest, emerge over open water in the northeastern portion of the Gulf, inch westward and grow stronger.
The storm’s origins are rare for a tropical disturbance, considering it originated over land in Tennessee and Georgia and moved into the Gulf, whereas hurricanes are typically spawned from low pressure systems flung off the coast of Africa that make their way across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Tropical Prediction Center gave the system an 80% chance of development into a tropical depression by later today or early Thursday.
“Once the system is over water, environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for tropical cyclone formation, and a tropical depression is likely to develop by late Wednesday or Thursday while the system moves westward across the northern Gulf of Mexico,” a weather bulletin about the system said Tuesday.
The storm is expected to have an impact from the Florida Panhandle to the upper Texas Gulf Coast.
Forecasters believe intense rainfall will be the biggest threat associated with the system, with 3 to 8 inches possible Friday through Monday, along with coastal flooding.
A forecast map showed Pike and Amite counties potentially receiving 4 to 6 inches of rain and Walthall County receiving 3 to 4 inches. Most of Wilkinson County is expected to receive 6 to 8 inches.
Pike County Civil Defense Director Richard Coghlan said Tuesday that emergency managers across the state are in a wait-and-see mode and would be briefed about the storm on Wednesday.
“Right now we’re just monitoring the weather service as well anything MEMA puts out for us,” he said.
Coghlan said one of the biggest concerns with the storm is the potential for it to linger in the Gulf and grow stronger.
“That’s the concern — if it goes down there and stalls and strengthens,” he said.
While drenching rain appears to be the biggest threat from the storm, forecasters also warned of the potential for wind damage and storm surge along the coast, where tides are expected to be 2 feet above normal levels by late Thursday and continuing through the weekend, forecasters said.
Warm water fuels the development of hurricanes and the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico is more than 80 degrees in some spots, a map of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and sensors in the Gulf showed Tuesday.
“The Gulf is extremely warm. Of course with the weather we’ve been having that’s not a surprise,” Coghlan said.
Officials with the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tuesday that an Air Force Reserve Unit reconnaissance aircraft is scheduled to fly into the system today.