Tropical Storm Helene Develops in Gulf

Gordon still at Tropical Storm strength in Atlantic

In a bit of a surprise, Tropical Storm Helene formed very quickly this afternoon in the Bay of Campeche.  The National Hurricane Center was monitoring the area for development and anticipating tropical cyclone formation in the next 24 hours, but usually that starts at the tropical depression stage.  A hurricane reconnaissance aircraft flew to investigate the storm and found a well-defined circulation with estimated maximum sustained surface winds of 45 mph – in other words, it’s a tropical storm.  From space, Helene doesn’t look all that impressive:

Visible satellite imagery of Tropical Storm Helene from 8:15 EDT on 8/17/2012.

You can see some bands off to the northwest that give the impression of a circulation.  The bulk of the convection (brighter cloud tops) is over land, but the circulation center itself was offshore as of the 8PM EDT advisory.  Helene is expect to slowly make its’ way inland tonight and during the day on Saturday.  As it interacts with more land than water, it is expected to weaken and lose tropical structure by the end of the day Sunday.

Forecast track for Tropical Storm Helene valid 8PM EDT on 8/17/12.

The main threat from the storm would appear to be inland flooding.  This is a byproduct of Helene’s slow movement over the next 48 hours.  The NHC estimates total rainfall from Helene between 5 and 10 inches, with up to 15 inches possible in some places across northeastern Mexico.  This will almost certainly lead to flash flooding and mudslides.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Gordon continues to churn in the central Atlantic, posing no immediate threat to life or property (unless you’re an uninformed mariner).  As I mentioned on Twitter earlier today, NHC backed of its’ intensity forecast and no longer has Gordon reaching hurricane status in the official forecast.  That said, the forecast does call for Gordon to be very near hurricane intensity over the next 36 hours, so it’s possible Gordon could become the third hurricane of the season for a brief period of time over the weekend.

Finally, the NHC is monitoring a tropical wave south of the Cape Verde islands off the coast of Africa.  Slow development is possible over the next 48 hours, but it is not anticipated to become a tropical cyclone during that time.  Two separate models forecast this wave to develop into a tropical cyclone later next week, so it’s worth keeping on eye on.  This has been quite the underwhelming hurricane season thus far, but multiple weather outlets are anticipating increased activity in the near future.  We shall see.

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