Saturday evening summary by Amy GodseyState Meteorologist
- “Based on Hurricane Hunter air reconnaissance, satellite and buoy data, the area of low pressure in the central Gulf of Mexico has become much better defined today and has organized into the 4th named storm of the 2012 season, Tropical Storm Debby.
- Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph, but this is only occurring on the east side of the storm where most of the thunderstorm activity is located.
- Debby is moving slowly northward at 6mph, and a slow northward drift is expected to continue for about the next 24-36 hours.
- Computer models remain in disagreement in regards to intensity, track and timing, and continue to show a “split decision” based on a rather complicated scenario.
- While some of the more reliable computer models still show a possible track towards Florida, the rest of the models bring Debby westward in the northern Gulf towards Texas.
- While there is a large amount of uncertainty in the forecast, the official National Hurricane Center track pulls Debby northward, with a closest approach 220 miles SW of Pensacola on Sunday night, then turning west sometime late Sunday night or early Monday.
- No Tropical Storm Watches or Warnings are in effect for Florida and all Florida areas are currently outside of the cone of error.
- Atmospheric conditions will become more favorable for strengthening and although the official forecast keeps Debby a tropical storm, there is a 20% chance that it could reach hurricane strength on Monday as it moves west.
- Even if Debby does not make landfall in Florida, strong thunderstorm activity on the eastern side of the storm will still affect portions of the state with heavy rainfall and isolated strong to severe storms.
- Rainfall amounts through Sunday night could reach 1-3 inches nearly statewide, with the heaviest amounts expected along coastal counties from Southwest Florida into the eastern Florida Panhandle.
- Locally heavy rainfall may lead to flooding of some areas, but the fast movement of the showers may preclude significant flooding.
- However, strong thunderstorms moving in from the Gulf of Mexico and sufficient wind shear values may allow for the possibility of isolated waterspouts or tornadoes to occur along portions of the Gulf Coast, in addition to the threat for gusty straight-line winds.
- Increased swells and wave action in the Gulf of Mexico will likely result in frequent and strong rip currents. Tides will generally run 1-3′ above normal and wave heights may reach as high as 6-12′ which could lead to minor coastal flooding and erosion.
- More information on the Tropical Storm Debby can be found at www.nhc.noaa.gov.”
June 23, 2012 6:40 p.m.