Tropical Depression Twenty-Two Is Expected to Become Tropical Storm Wilfred in the Western Gulf of Mexico

Published in 18 September, 2020

  • A new tropical depression has formed in the southwest Gulf of Mexico.

  • This system may meander in the western Gulf the next several days.

  • Where this system ultimately ends up remains highly uncertain due to weak steering winds.

Tropical Depression Twenty-Two is forecast to become a tropical storm and will meander in the western Gulf of Mexico before potentially impacting parts of the coast of Texas or northeast Mexico next week. This newly-formed system was designated a tropical depression early Thursday evening after a Hurricane Hunter aircraft mission found a closed low-pressure circulation with sufficient thunderstorms near it. With little wind shear and plenty of warm ocean water, this system is expected to become a tropical storm soon. The next Atlantic Basin tropical storm will be named Wilfred. How strong it will become remains uncertain. Water temperatures are very warm, which supports intensification, and wind shear should remain low to moderate, at most. However, it could be impacted by some dry air and it could eventually churn up enough cooler water below the surface to keep a lid on its intensification.
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It certainly won’t be in any hurry for the next several days. A weak upper-level low over Texas should help nudge this system north over the next day or so. But then that upper-low will weaken and move away, leaving the system steered by a weak area of high pressure setting up over the south-central U.S. by early next week that could bend it slowly westward.
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At this point, the key takeaway for anyone from the northeastern Mexican coast to Louisiana is to keep an eye on this tropical system in the western Gulf of Mexico over the next several days. Regardless of development, tropical moisture will increase along parts of the Gulf Coast into next week. Locally heavy rainfall is possible near portions of the immediate coast, which could lead to flooding. Where the heaviest rain falls will be determined by the track of this system. Increased surf and rip currents are also expected from northeastern Mexico to the northern Gulf Coast. This high surf is expected to last for several days, with at least some minor coastal flooding possible in some areas.
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Record Early Streak Continues? The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has been very active and 17 of the 20 named storms have set records in terms of how early a certain letter storm was named. There were even two named storms before the season’s official June 1 start. If this system becomes Wilfred, it will be the earliest 21st named storm on record. The current record for the earliest Atlantic 21st named storm is Vince on Oct. 8, 2005. Wilfred is the last name on the Atlantic Basin list this year and the next named system would then use the Greek alphabet. The only other year to use Greek letters was 2005.
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