Memorial Day tropical weather system to hit ahead of hurricane season

Sorry to rain on your beach barbecue: There is a 90% chance of tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico over Memorial Day weekend and an even better chance of soaking rains across the eastern Gulf Coast.

Hurricane season doesn’t begin until June 1, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see some action Saturday or Sunday.

Forecast models were not in agreement on where the storm might go until Thursday. The two main models now suggest that the small cluster of thunderstorms near Cancun will move into the Gulf of Mexico by late Saturday. By Monday, the potential storm could be threatening southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

The American forecast model has been very wishy-washy on the location. Most of its runs showed the storm moving across the Florida peninsula. Thursday’s shift aligns it more with a track similar to the European model, which has been a little more consistent, showing a tropical or subtropical storm drifting ashore near New Orleans.

This forecast agreement is probably one reason the National Hurricane Center is predicting a 90% chance that a subtropical or tropical depression could form in the Gulf of Mexico over the next five days.

Because the atmosphere is starting to become more favorable for development, there is a 70% chance it could develop within the next 48 hours.

No matter where this storm moves or how strong it becomes, it will continue to bring tropical moisture into the South from Louisiana to North Carolina. The heaviest rain will fall near the Gulf, with Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama seeing seven-day rainfall totals of 4 to 7 inches.

If it gets strong enough to become a subtropical or tropical storm, with sustained winds of 39 miles per hour (63 kilometers per hour) or greater, it will be named Alberto.

As we have seen in years past, environmental conditions sometimes allow for development before the hurricane season begins. The last time a tropical cyclone was named Alberto was in 2012; it also formed before the season began, on May 19. It became a tropical storm that meandered off the cast coast of Georgia and South Carolina.

Just last year, we had a named storm — Tropical Storm Arlene — east of Bermuda in April.

This early development doesn’t necessarily mean we are in for a busy hurricane season. The official National Hurricane Center forecast released Thursday says the season is likely to be near or above normal.