Uncertainties loom for weekend
Emergency management officials and meteorologist are keeping a close eye on a storm system that has formed in the Gulf of Mexico, which could become the second named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season.
Forecasters said the weather disturbance is expected to become a tropical depression by this morning; a tropical storm by tonight and a hurricane on Friday.
Forecasters said parts of the central Gulf Coast could see a total of up to 12 inches of rain, with up to 18 inches in isolated areas. The center on Wednesday began issuing advisories about the weather system, even though it hasn’t yet become a named storm. Forecasters are calling it “Potential Tropical Cyclone Two.”
A storm surge watch has been issued from the mouth of the Pearl River to Morgan City, Louisiana and a tropical storm watch has been issued from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Morgan City, Louisiana
The current forecast indicates that the storm would make landfall in Louisiana as a possible hurricane sometime Saturday, but with a great deal of uncertainty. The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters were scheduled to fly into the storm Wednesday afternoon. The flight would provide solid data for computerized weather models to improve the forecast.
Furthermore, an offshore system of buoys run by Texas A&M University scientists is being utilized to measure water temperature, winds, waves, currents, salinity and other parameters to help predict its path and intensity.
If the depression’s winds reach 39 mph, it would be known as Tropical Storm Barry.
As of Wednesday, the Chambers County Emergency Management said the county would likely receive 25 – 35 mph winds and heavy rain that could produce 2 to 4 inches. In preparation, the Chambers County Emergency Management urges residents to register family phones and emails with ChambersWARNS — the emergency system the county utilizes to push critical information out to residents. Residents can register at www.co.chambers.tx.us/page/chamberswarns.
Despite the uncertainty of current forecasts, the City of Baytown is preparing as if the storm will hit the area.
Natasha Barrett, city spokeswoman, said the Baytown Fire Department is preparing its high-water vehicles and is coordinating with regional partners.
“The Baytown Fire Department Emergency Management Division is also ensuring the disaster warehouse is stocked and ready for deployment of resources and equipment,” she said. “The BFD EMD is also working closely with external partners to ensure they are ready for any potential impacts.”
If the system gains strength, as meteorologist have said could happen while it remains offshore, it could develop into a hurricane, which is determined when sustained surface winds equal or exceed 74 mph.
The city is implementing hurricane plans and taking appropriate action to ready its staff, equipment and resources should a hurricane develop.
“The Baytown EM Division is actively monitoring the storm and making appropriate staffing arrangements of the Emergency Operations Center. As soon as the storm is named, the Baytown EOC will move to level 3 – increased readiness with limited staffing,” Barrett said. “If conditions begin to change with greater impacts to the Baytown area, the EOC will adjust its posture and begin to call-in additional city personnel.”
The Harris County of Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is also monitoring the tropical system and will open its Regional Joint Information Center from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., today. For more information, visit www.readyharris.org/#.
Named storms are occasional visitors to Texas in July: The most recent July named storm to hit Texas was Hurricane Dolly in 2008, which made landfall at South Padre Island with winds near 100 mph.
Of the 70 tropical systems that have impacted Texas since 1980, seven have come in July.