MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Hurricane season 2020 has started off very active in terms of the number of named storms we’ve seen in the Atlantic Basin. Many records have fallen for how early in the season these storms have formed.
It began in May with both Arthur and Bertha forming before hurricane season officially started. Then we had Cristobal form on June 1st, becoming the earliest third named storm in Atlantic basin history. Dolly didn’t break any records, but was still one of the earliest fourth named storms to form.
Then came Edouard and Fay, which hold the record for earliest fifth named storm and earliest sixth named storm, respectively.
Now we have Gonzalo, which broke the record for the earliest date to get to the seventh named storm in the Atlantic Basin. Despite this, we have not had a single hurricane in the Atlantic. That, however, is expected to change as Tropical Storm Gonzalo edges closer to hurricane strength.
According to the latest outlook from the National Hurricane Center, Gonzalo is forecast to become a category 1 hurricane Thursday as it heads west northwest toward the Caribbean.
Hurricane watches are in effect for Barbados and a couple of the southern Windward Islands. Gonzalo is very small in size, which is making for a difficult forecasting scenario. Not only that, but there are other variables such as wind shear, plenty of dry air around the system and very warm waters that are further complicating things.
Gonzalo will need to be monitored closely as it heads into the Caribbean this weekend. We will stay on top of it, especially if it remains intact through the Caribbean and makes its way into the Gulf of Mexico later next week.
Then there’s the newly named Tropical Storm Hanna. It is situated south of Lake Charles in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, and is showing signs of strengthening at least slightly.
This is the earliest in the year to get an eighth named storm in the Atlantic Basin. Sound familiar?
Impacts will mainly be dangerous swimming conditions and heavy rainfall along the Gulf Coast from Pensacola to southern Texas over the coming days. Some gusty winds are possible as well nearest the coast.
There are rip current alerts and coastal flood alerts for parts of the Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana coasts. Parts of southeastern Texas are under a tropical storm watch, and some of the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico are under a tropical storm warning.
A slight uptick in shower and storm coverage is possible locally Thursday afternoon and evening as some of the storm’s outer rain bands push northwestward into Alabama. That would be about the extent of the system’s impacts for us.
Once TD 8 becomes Tropical Storm Hanna, we will have had a whopping eight named storms before the beginning of August. According to data from 1966 to 2009 and the NHC, we would not typically see our eighth named storm until late September!
So it’s clear we are way ahead of schedule this year despite there being no hurricanes to date. And looking ahead, there is no reason to believe things will slow down heading into the peak of hurricane season in August, September and October.
Switching gears now to the Pacific, things are rather active as well. Major Hurricane Douglas is a category 3 storm with peak sustained winds of 120 mph as of Thursday morning. It looks very organized and impressive on satellite imagery with a well-defined eye and circulation.
Douglas is forecast to move generally west northwestward over the next several days. This trajectory sends it in the direction of the Hawaiian Islands.
While there are no hurricane or tropical storm alerts in effect for Hawaii, the likelihood of noticeable impacts is increasing for at least some of the Hawaiian Islands. The good news is that even if Douglas heads right for the heart of the state, it will likely be at worst a high-end tropical storm.
Still, this could lead to flooding, mudslide concerns, dangerous rip currents and swimming conditions, and isolated wind damage potential as we head into the latter half of the weekend.
Buckle up, friends!