Triple Trouble in the Tropics?

Scheduling Note: Our Weekend Outlook will be published early Friday this week instead of Thursday afternoon as it usually is.

The tropics had been relatively quiet in the past couple of weeks, but we suddenly have 3 storms that are all threats to land.

Tropical Depression 8 is trying to get organized in the Gulf of Mexico while Tropical Storm Gonzalo heads toward the Windward Islands. Loop provided by NOAA.

We’ll start with Tropical Depression 8, since it is the most immediate threat to land. As of 11am EDT, the system was centered about 380 miles east-southeast of Port O’Connor, Texas, moving toward the west-northwest at 9 mph. Maximum sustained winds were near 35 mph. The system should continue on a general westward track for the next day or two, with some strengthening possible. As a result, a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Texas coast from Port Mansfield to High Island.

Forecast track for Tropical Depression 8. Image provided by the National Hurricane Center.

While gusty winds and some rough surf are likely along the Texas coast, the biggest threat from this system will be heavy rainfall. Slow-moving tropical systems have produced significant rainfall in Texas many times before, and while we’re not expecting 50+ inches like Hurricane Harvey produced a few years ago, widespread totals of 3-6 inches with isolated amounts of up to 10 inches are possible this weekend. That would produce flooding in many areas.

TD 8 will produce heavy rain across much of southern Texas and parts of the Gulf Coast. Image provided by

While TD 8 is the immediate threat to the US, out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Gonzalo presents a threat to parts of the Windward Islands. As of 11am EDT, Gonzalo was centered about 885 miles east of the southern Windward Islands, moving toward the west at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Barbados as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Forecast track for Tropical Storm Gonzalo. Image provided by the National Hurricane Center.

Gonzalo’s future is very uncertain. The official forecast calls for Gonzalo to become a hurricane later today, then start to weaken after moving across the Windward Islands this weekend and into the eastern Caribbean. However, Gonzalo looks less organized on satellite photos today, and is fighting off some dry air aloft. There is a decent chance that the system could weaken or even open up into a wave before reaching the Windward Islands. How it develops over the next 12-24 hours will give us a much better idea of what the future holds for it.

In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Hurricane Douglas continues to strengthen this morning, and could become a threat to Hawaii this weekend.

Hurricane Douglas continues to strengthen in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Loop provided by NOAA.

As of 11am EDT, Douglas was centered about 1335 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii, moving toward the west-northwest at 20 mph. Maximum sustained winds have increased to 120 mph, making Douglas a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Some additional strengthening is possible today before a weakening trend begins on Friday as Douglas moves over cooler waters.

Forecast track for Hurricane Douglas. Image provided by the National Hurricane Center.

Douglas is expected to only gradually weaken while heading towards the west-northwest over the next several days. On this track, Douglas is expected to pass close to or over parts of the Hawaiian Islands this weekend. Obviously which islands would be impacted and what the threats would be will depend on the exact track Douglas takes, as well as how quickly it weakens. At this point, gusty winds, heavy rainfall, and rough surf appear mostly likely for the Big Island, but the entire island chain could be impacted.

While Hawaii has been impacted by many weakening storms passing by the islands, a direct hit is actually fairly rare. Since 1871, only 3 hurricanes and 4 tropical storms have actually made landfall on the islands. The last system to make landfall in Hawaii was Tropical Storm Olivia in 2018. The last hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

Very few tropical systems actually make landfall in Hawaii. Image provided by NOAA.

Beyond these systems, there’s nothing on the immediate horizon. Some of the longer-range ensemble models are showing the potential for a wave to move off the the African coast and develop while crossing the Atlantic next week. This is still several days away, and while the likelihood of it happening is fairly low, we are getting into the time of year when some of these waves do start rolling off of Africa and maintain themselves while crossing the Atlantic. Just like in the winter when you’ll see Day 16 model images of a mega-blizzard for the Northeast, we’re already seeing people posting model images for a potential East Coast hurricane 2 weeks from now. Don’t buy into the hype. Until something actually develops, it doesn’t exist, let alone present a threat.

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