Plenty of time left in record-breaking 2020 hurricane season as we watch system in Gulf for signs of development

Plenty of time left in record-breaking 2020 hurricane season as we watch system in Gulf for signs of development
Hurricane Sally and Invest 90L (Source: weathernerds.org)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Pictures and damage reports are rolling in as Hurricane Sally does her worst to coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. It’s going to be a long day for those folks as they wait for Sally to move off to the northeast, followed by an extended period of recovery.

We are all “hurricane weary” even though most of southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi have fared relatively well so far this season. Cristobal didn’t deliver the tropical “punch” we feared, Laura’s wreckage was contained to the west of the Atchafalaya Basin, and Marco’s storm energy headed to Florida as the system went “poof” along the southeast Louisiana coast.

Sally made landfall Wednesday morning (Sept. 16) in Alabama, more than 100 miles east of the Louisiana state line. Some Louisiana residents are suggesting the state’s concern for this latest Gulf hurricane was unwarranted. That’s simply wrong. A look at Sally’s drifting track Monday and Tuesday reminds us that just a modest nudge to the west could have sent this system slamming into the southeastern parishes.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season has been establishing record after record and there are another 75 days to go, assuming storm activity will end by or before Nov. 30. We’ve reached the end of the list of names, with either a strong disturbance in the eastern tropical Atlantic or an unwanted area of low pressure in the western Gulf likely to be named Wilfred within the next several days. After that, we follow 2005 and use the Greek alphabet for storm names for only the second time ever.

The 2020 season started early, with Arthur and Bertha forming in May. Even Cristobal was waiting at the gates, becoming a tropical depression in the southwestern Gulf on the first official day of the season and reaching tropical storm strength on the morning of June 2. In addition to Cristobal, there have been four hurricanes in the Gulf: Hanna, Marco, Laura, and Sally. Odds are very good there will be another named storm or two in the Gulf over the next ten weeks, which brings us to the situation in the southwestern Gulf as of Wednesday.

There’s a broad area of low pressure in the Bay of Campeche that has been hanging around the western Gulf for a few days now and shown some substantial signs of life over the last 12 hours. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has been highlighting the area for days and tagged it as Invest 90L Wednesday morning.

The NHC is giving 90L a 60% chance of development over the next five days and that percentage may go higher with the 1 p.m. Wednesday advisory. In fact, the NHC acknowledges that 90L could become a tropical depression as soon as the next couple of days.

The atmosphere in and around 90L is expected to be supportive for organization and the feature is sitting over and near an area of deep, warm water for fuel. Models are coming into line and suggesting some slow development as the system drifts slowly northward.

There’s another factor that may give it a boost too: a cool front will slide through Louisiana and the Gulf Coast late Friday/early Saturday and settle over the central Gulf during the weekend. The western end of that stalled front may act as a focusing feature for the low pressure in the western Gulf, giving 90L something extra to build upon.

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