Gulf of Mexico Tropical Disturbance/DC Floods/Flood Safety

You may have heard on the news this week that there is a potential tropical system which is forecast to form in the Gulf of Mexico over the next day or two. Satellite imagery shows a broad area of convection over the Florida panhandle and southern Alabama. This convection will be drifting slowly westward over the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Water vapor imagery for July 9, 2019.

As the system interacts with the very warm waters (over 80 degrees Fahrenheit!) of the northern Gulf of Mexico, the area of low pressure will intensify, and the National Hurricane Center has indicated that this area has a 70% chance of tropical cyclone formation in the next 2-5 days. Regardless of whether the system becomes a tropical depression or a named tropical storm, the disturbance will bring heavy rainfall to parts of the Gulf Coast this week. If the system does intensify and become strong enough to become a named tropical storm where the winds exceed 39 mph, then there could be additional impacts related to damaging winds and storm surge. Storm surge is the wind-driven rise in water along the coast which often occurs as tropical systems cause onshore flow to ‘push’ ocean water towards the shoreline.

Courtesy: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The NOAA/Weather Prediction Center has highlighted this area of Florida and the Gulf Coast in their excessive rainfall outlook. Note that parts of Louisiana could receive upwards of 5 to 10 inches of rain as a result of this system. Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center and your local National Weather Service office for updates.

Also in the news this week, you may have heard that Washington, DC received 3.3 inches of rainfall in a single hour, the heaviest rainfall on record for Reagan National Airport. This blog post, by Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow of the Capitol Weather Gang, gives a great synopsis of this historic event. There have been several historic heavy rainfall events over the last few years- you can read our blog post which profiled a local resident in the community of Ellicott City, Maryland here.

With the summer/tropical weather season upon us, it is a good time to review some flood safety protocol. Remember that heavy rains can cause flash flooding in a very short period of time, in any area of the country, during any season. One of the most important things to remember if you are out and about and find yourself impacted by flooded roadways is that it takes very little moving water to sweep a car away:

Courtesy: NOAA.

Be sure to stay aware of changing weather conditions by checking your local forecast for watches and warnings, and review flood safety protocol for your locations if heavy rains are in the forecast.

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