NewsWeather and Critical Events

Tropical storm could flood Gulf Coast this weekend

Supply chain issues possible from Louisiana to Florida

The 2019 Atlantic cyclone season is showing no signs of letting up. A cluster of thunderstorms in the Bay of Campeche, off the eastern coast of Mexico, is becoming better organized. It could very well transform into the next tropical storm. It would be the first cyclone to make U.S. landfall since Tropical Storm Imelda seriously flooded parts of the Gulf Coast just east of Houston in mid-September.

SONAR Critical Events: Potential Tropical Cyclone Sixteen, Thursday, October 17, 2019, 2:00 p.m. EDT

Imelda wasn’t supposed to amount to much, but the situation took a quick turn for the worse. As hard as forecasters work to provide the most accurate outlooks and information, sometimes tropical systems play tricks on them. Hopefully, that won’t happen in this case. Shippers, if you have time, plan ahead regarding weekend loads.

The NHC has named the system lurking to our south Potential Tropical Cyclone Sixteen (PTC16). As of 2 p.m. EDT today, October 17, it was centered far from the U.S. — about 600 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, which is just south of New Orleans. PTC16 was producing sustained winds that maxed out at only 35 mph. Higher gusts have been reported. The NHC expects sustained winds to reach tropical storm force of at least 39 mph later today or tonight. At that point, PTC16 would become Tropical Storm Nestor.

While TPC16 seems harmless right now and is far away from the U.S., it will pick up speed and strength as it approaches the northern U.S. Gulf Coast on Friday and Friday night, October 18. The NHC pegs the odds of the system becoming a tropical storm at 90%. Alerts posted by the NHC are housed inside the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events platform, shown in the map above.

A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for the following areas:

• From the Mississippi-Alabama border to the Ochlockonee River in the central Florida Panhandle.

• Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the following areas:

• East of the Ochlockonee River to Yankeetown, Florida.

And a Storm Surge Watch is in effect for the following areas:

• Indian Pass to Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach the the warning area by late Friday.

Rainfall estimates for October 17 to October 22, 2019. Source: NOAA

Whether PTC16 become a named storm or not, there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline. The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide may cause flooding in normally dry areas near the coast.

The system could dump total rainfall accumulations of two to four inches this weekend from the central Gulf Coast to northern and central Florida and possibly into the eastern Carolinas. Isolated amounts of five inches are possible.

Keep in mind that tropical systems can behave erratically. The forecast for PTC16 may change for the better or worse. Look for updates on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.