It’s an incredibly busy day in the tropics. There are three tropical storms, one hurricane, a tropical depression and two disturbances that may or may not develop.
The three tropical storms include Sally, Teddy and Vicki. Paulette is the hurricane. Rene is a tropical depression.
It’s only the second time in recorded history that there were five tropical cyclones churning in the Atlantic basin, Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach said.
From this plethora of tropical action, the big story at least for the U.S. on Monday was Tropical Storm Sally, which was expected to become a hurricane as it traverses the Gulf of Mexico on Monday or Monday night. In Sally’s potential path was New Orleans, the city that was deluged by Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago.
New Orleans was under a hurricane warning Monday, as was a stretch of coastline from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Florida-Alabama border.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Mississippi-Alabama border to Indian Pass, Fla., and Intracoastal City La., to west of Morgan City.
A storm surge warning, which pertains to the threat of rising water inundating land, was in effect from Fort Pourchon, La., to the Alabama-Florida border. Also under a storm surge warning were Lake Pontchartrain, on which New Orleans sits, Lake Maurepas, Lake Borgne and Mobile Bay.
Tropical Storm Sally is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds and flash flooding along portions of the U.S. northern Gulf Coast by late Monday, and is expected to make landfall Tuesday along coastal Louisiana or coastal Mississippi, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.
“On the forecast track, the center of Sally will move over the north-central Gulf of Mexico today, approach southeastern Louisiana tonight, and make landfall in the hurricane warning area on Tuesday or Tuesday night,” the National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. Monday public advisory said.
Sally was expected to be a rainmaker, too. It’s expected to be a slow mover as it edges close to land, and was forecast to drop between 8 and 16 inches of rain, with up to 24 inches, or two feet, in isolated areas by the middle of the week. Because of this threat, forecasters said, life-threatening flash flooding was a very real possibility.
“That system is forecast to bring not only damaging winds but a dangerous storm surge,” said Daniel Brown of the National Hurricane Center. “Because it’s slowing down it could produce a tremendous amount of rainfall over the coming days.”
A mandatory evacuation has already been issued in Grand Isle, La. On Saturday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation order for Orleans Parish residents living outside of the parish’s levee protection system.
Sally had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and was moving west-northwest at a slow creep of 6 mph as of 11 a.m. Monday.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday that there are still many from southwestern Louisiana who evacuated from Hurricane Laura into New Orleans — exactly the area that could be hit by Sally.
“It needs to be understood by all of our friends in the coastal region and in south Mississippi that if you live in low-lying areas, the time to get out is early tomorrow morning,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said late Sunday.
As of 11 a.m., Sally was lurking in the Gulf about 185 miles southeast of Biloxi, Miss., and 140 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Teddy formed early Monday from Tropical Depression 20 and could become a hurricane in a few days, National Hurricane Center forecasters said. It was located about 1,250 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, a group of islands on the eastern rim of the Caribbean, as of 11 a.m. Monday.
Teddy had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.
And Tropical Storm Vicky has formed out of a depression that was a couple hundred miles west-northwest of the Cabo Verde Islands in the far eastern Atlantic. Vicky is the 20th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season but was not expected to last long. The storm was expected to fade into a remnant low by Thursday.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Paulette was 65 miles north of Bermuda as of 11 a.m. Monday, moving north-northwest near 14 mph. The southern eyewall of the hurricane was over Bermuda and was lashing the island with torrential rains and hurricane conditions, with the storm’s strongest sustained winds measuring 100 mph, with higher gusts.
Tropical Storm Rene, which formed on along with Paulette on Sept. 7, was downgraded to a tropical depression Sunday over the open Atlantic. Rene was expected to become a remnant low on Monday before dissipating by Wednesday, the hurricane center said.
Two other disturbances were also being monitored by the National Hurricane Center:
- A surface trough developed Sunday afternoon over the west-central Gulf of Mexico. It has been given a 10% chance of development over the next five days as it moves south-southwest over the western Gulf of Mexico.
- A tropical wave is forecast to move off the west coast of Africa within the next couple of days. It has a 40% chance of development as it moves west over the far eastern tropical Atlantic, forecasters said Sunday.
This is the time of year when storms tend to form in the open Atlantic, particularly near the Cabo Verde Islands. These storms, which grow in size and intensity as they make the long trek westward across the Atlantic Ocean, are historically the most powerful and destructive hurricanes.
Hurricane season runs from June 1-Nov. 30. So far this season, including Hurricane Paulette, there have been six hurricanes and 20 tropical storms.
Laura was the season’s first major hurricane, making landfall in Cameron, La., as a Category 4 on Aug. 27. Hanna, Isaias and Marco were Category 1 hurricanes that made landfall in Padre Island, Texas; Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.; and at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Hurricane Nana impacted Central America.
Paulette, Rene, Sally and Teddy set records for earliest “P”, “R,” “S” and “T” storms in any Atlantic hurricane season, breaking the record held by Philippe, Rita, Stan and Tammy back in 2005, according to Klotzbach.
In 2005, Stan formed on Oct. 2 and Tammy formed Oct. 5.
The sole remaining moniker for named storms this season in the Atlantic is Wilfred. Any storms after Wilfred would be named after letters in the Greek alphabet. That has only happened once — in the 2005 hurricane season, according to The Weather Channel.
The tropical weather experts at Colorado State University predicted that 2020 could possibly be the second-busiest season on record, behind only 2005, the year that produced Katrina and Wilma. In August, the federal government issued an updated forecast for the season, predicting as many as 25 storms, which is more than the agency has ever forecast.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.