August 22, 2020

Gulf Coast on alert as simultaneous tropical storms threaten

(CNN) Gulf Coast residents need to pay attention as not one, but two tropical systems could impact the area in the coming days.

The first system to watch is Tropical Storm Laura, which is currently over Puerto Rico. This system is expected to move northwest in the coming days and head toward Hispaniola and Cuba.

The second system, Tropical Storm Marco, is just east of the Yucatan Peninsula. This system is expected to move across the peninsula as it dumps several inches of rain before continuing north toward the US.

Having two systems so close to the US at the same time complicates things to say the least.

“It’s always tough to predict hurricanes, especially their intensity,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen says. “In this case, it’s tough to say at this point which storm will be the strongest. The storms could potentially interact with each other and that makes this forecast (or two) even more complicated.”

The focus is on the Gulf of Mexico

Both systems are headed to the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time. This is rare. In fact, only twice in recorded history have we ever had two systems that were tropical storm strength or stronger in the Gulf simultaneously. Once on June 18, 1959, and again on Sept. 5, 1933.

Right now, both storms could possibly intensify to hurricane strength as they move through the Gulf of Mexico.

“We have never had two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously,” Phil Klotzbach, a tropical researcher for Colorado State University points out.

As of now, these systems are still several days away from impacting the US, so there is a lot that could change. However, since there are two systems at play here, essentially everything from Texas to Florida is an option.

The National Hurricane Center explained that “Near the end of the period, [tropical storm] Marco’s track and intensity could be influenced by Tropical Storm Laura, which is also forecast to be over the Gulf of Mexico,” although the details on that interaction are still unclear.

Not to mention, evacuations. According to CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers, “The Gulf of Mexico is very warm and conducive to very rapid intensification. Two landfalling hurricanes in close proximity to each other make evacuation plans that much more difficult.”

Power companies may also encounter a prospect they’ve never dealt with before: restoring power after two storms hit amid a global pandemic.

We are still weeks away from peak of hurricane season

The statistical peak of Atlantic hurricane season is September 10th, which is still several weeks away. What’s more concerning is that 85% of major hurricanes (Category 3 and above) occur after August 20, but we’ve already had quite an active season already.

When Tropical Storm Laura was named on Friday it set a record for the earliest “L” named storm. That has happened eight other times so far in 2020, as Cristobal, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, and Kyle also achieved this same record for their respective letters. Tropical storm Marco quickly followed suit Friday evening becoming the earliest 13th named storm.

Above-average sea surface temperatures are providing the necessary fuel for the development of tropical cyclone formations. An enhanced La Niña Watch was also issued last week, which could also contribute to enhanced hurricane activity.

There are a lot of comparisons out there to the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. Not only is this year’s hurricane season currently on pace to match the number of named storms in 2005, it also happened to be a year where La Niña developed in the autumn.

By Allison Chinchar, Jennifer Gray, and Derek Van Dam

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