Memorial Day tropical weather system to hit Gulf Coast ahead of hurricane season

Memorial Day tropical weather system to hit Gulf Coast ahead of hurricane season
Posted at 5:59 PM, May 23, 2018

 Sorry to rain on your beach barbecue: There is a 70% chance of tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico over Memorial Day weekend and an even better chance of soaking rains across the eastern Gulf Coast.

Hurricane season doesn't begin until June 1, but that doesn't mean we won't see some action Saturday or Sunday.

Forecast models have not been in agreement on where the expected storm will go, but they have agreed that it will form. It is now a small cluster of thunderstorms near Belize. Over the next 48 hours, the atmosphere is not favorable for development, but conditions look more favorable as we move into the weekend.

The National Hurricane Center says there is a 70% chance that a subtropical or tropical depression could form in the Gulf of Mexico.

The American forecast model has been very wishy-washy on the location. Most of its runs have shown the storm moving across the Florida peninsula. The European model has been a little more consistent, showing a tropical or subtropical storm drifting ashore near New Orleans.

No matter where this storm moves or how strong it becomes, it will continue to bring tropical moisture into the South from Louisiana to North Carolina. The heaviest rain will fall near the Gulf, with Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama seeing seven-day rainfall totals of 4 to 7 inches.

If it gets strong enough to become a subtropical or tropical storm, with sustained winds of 39 miles per hour (63 kilometers per hour) or greater, it will be named Alberto.

As we have seen in years past, environmental conditions sometimes allow for development before the hurricane season begins. The last time a tropical cyclone was named Alberto was in 2012; it also formed before the season began, on May 19. It became a tropical storm that meandered off the cast coast of Georgia and South Carolina.

Just last year, we had a named storm -- Tropical Storm Arlene -- east of Bermuda in April.

This early development doesn't necessarily mean we are in for a busy hurricane season. The official National Hurricane Center forecast released Thursday will be a better indication. Some forecasters have suggested a slightly above-average year.