Severe weather across the nation’s midsection and flooding along the Mississippi river have dominated weather news across the United States this week. However, things are about to change as the Atlantic hurricane season is already in full-swing. The first named storm of the season–tropical storm Andrea–has formed in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to make landfall on the US mainland this weekend.
The tropical system had sustained winds of 40 mph (miles per hour); the national weather service does not give a name to a storm until its winds are in excess of 39 mph. Andrea, located about 300 miles off the coast of Florida, south and west of the city of Tampa, is moving north at 6 mph. Despite warm water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, Andrea is not expected to strengthen much over the next 48 hours.
The center of the storm is expected to continue along a north and north-easterly track and is expected to make landfall on Thursday afternoon along the northern Florida coast. The storm will continue inland, passing over southern Georgia and into the Carolinas. The National Weather Service has issued tropical storm advisories along the western coast of Florida as well as the Georgia and South Carolina coasts. Inland flooding advisories have also been posted across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Andrea’s formation comes less than a week after the unofficial beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane season. The season begins on June 1, and though tropical systems can form at any time outside of the six month hurricane season, the months from June through November are the peak times for tropical development.
The season’s quick arrival follows along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) prediction of an active hurricane season. The agency, after looking at a variety of factors, have predicted between 13 and 20 named storms to form over the course of the next six months. Of those, perhaps a half dozen could become major hurricanes–storms with winds in excess of 111 mph. These are predictions merely of hurricane formation and not necessarily a forecast for hurricanes that make landfall nor does it attempt to predict where the hurricanes will form or where they will strike. It is simply a prediction based on past climate trends and factors and is applied to the entire Atlantic basin.
The warm waters of the Atlantic basin, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea are all factors that go into the predictions. Combined with the strong flow of wind off the African mainland, the Atlantic hurricane season promises to be active. Most importantly, there is expected to be no el Niño formation in the southern Pacific this summer; a strong el Niño typically helps to suppress the favorable conditions for hurricane generation in the Atlantic.
According the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Hunters, as of 11 o’clock EDT, Andrea was located at 26.0oN 86.3oW and had an minimum pressure of 1002 millibar. The storm is expected to continue moving north until it is pushed east thanks to a front moving in from the west and helping to steer Andrea over Georgia and South Carolina.
Sources: National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration websites.