MOBILE, Alabama — A line of showers and thunderstorms in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico is becoming less and less likely to develop into a hurricane, and could bring some positive weather news to the western Florida Panhandle, according to a meteorologist in the National Weather Service forecast office in Mobile.
"Of course, we keep a close eye on anything in the tropics," meteorologist Jason Beaman said Tuesday morning as the Air Force Reserve was considering whether to send an aircraft to investigate the disturbance as it approached the central Gulf coast of Mexico.
According to the National Hurricance Center, the system was projected possibly to become a tropical depression sometime Tuesday before moving inland over northeastern Mexico.
But Beaman also noted that the National Hurricane Center had reduced the probability of the disturbance developing into a hurricane from 60 percent to 40 percent.
Part of the reason for that downgrade, Beaman explained, is the developing weather system's likely interaction with the Mexican land mass.
From now through the weekend, the weather system will produce rain to the north and northeast of its location in the Gulf of Mexico, Beaman said, bringing an average of two to three inches of precipitation across the Mobile forecast area, which extends eastward to Okaloosa County. Across the area, the chance of showers and thunderstorms stands at 30 percent for Wednesday, climbing to 60 percent by Thursday and 70 percent by Friday before dropping back down to 60 percent through the weekend, according to the NWS forecast.
According to Beaman, locally heavy rains could produce more than the predicted two to three inches of precipitation in some parts of the forecast area.
The NWS forecast office in Tallahassee, which covers the rest of the Panhandle, aligns with the Mobile forecast, calling for either a 30 percent or 40 percent chance of showers and thundershowers until Sunday, when the chance of showers and thunderstorms rises to 60 percent.
In a Tuesday morning update on the Gulf weather system, the National Hurricane Center noted that regardless of how the system develops, it "will likely produce heavy rainfall over portions of eastern Mexico, southeastern Texas and the Lower Mississippi Valley during the next few days." The Lower Mississippi Valley comprises parts of seven states — Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
And while residents of the Alabama coast and the Florida Panhandle likely will welcome a shift from the current hot and dry weather to a more rainy forecast, people farther west, in Arkansas and Louisiana and inland to Missouri, already are dealing with significant flooding from recent storms, Beaman noted.
If the storm system in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico does happen to develop, it will become Tropical Storm Barry, the second named storm in recent weeks.
Subtropical Storm Andrea, which churned west of Bermuda on the Atlantic coast in May, nearly two weeks before the official June 1 start of hurricane season, was the first named storm this year. The storm weakened to a subtropical depression within a day of its May 20 formation.