FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It’s looking increasingly likely that the Atlantic’s first named storm of 2022 could form this week in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly affecting Florida by week’s end.
Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said as of 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday that there’s now a 70% chance a tropical depression or Tropical Storm Alex could emerge in the warm Gulf waters in the next five days, fueled from the remnants of what was Hurricane Agatha in the Pacific.
Warm water temperatures are an optimal factor in tropical storm and hurricane development. In mid-June of last year, Tropical Storm Claudette formed in the Gulf waters and came ashore in Louisiana.
If a depression or storm forms this year, it would be called Alex.
Though there are strong winds over the area, forecasters said it is still highly likely to develop into a tropical depression as it moves toward the northeast over the Caribbean Sea and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico Thursday night or Friday.
Regardless of tropical development, it is forecast to bring heavy rain to portions of southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, then spread across western Cuba, southern Florida, and the Florida Keys by the end of the week.
Hurricane Agatha underwent rapid intensification Sunday, becoming a Category 2 hurricane, when its maximum sustained winds jumped 35 mph in less than 24 hours.
By Tuesday, Hurricane Agatha was downgraded to Tropical Storm Agatha after moving over storm-shredding mountainous terrain near Oaxaca, Mexico. Agatha made landfall Monday evening in coastal town of Puerto Angel in southern Mexico.
Agatha’s maximum sustained winds had plummeted to 45 mph by early Tuesday and had dissipated by Tuesday afternoon, one day before the official start of hurricane season.
In Oaxaca, up to 20 inches of rain, or almost 2 feet, were possible in some areas, triggering the threat of floods and mudslides.
“Agatha will produce heavy rains over portions of southern Mexico through Tuesday night,” a National Hurricane Center public advisory said.
Florida has a 75% chance of getting hit by a hurricane this year, according to one expert, which is the highest chance of any state in the U.S.
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said his research shows Florida, with its abundance of coastline, has the highest chance of getting hit by a hurricane this year. Louisiana, which has been pounded by four hurricanes the last two years, including three major hurricanes, is second-highest at 56%.
Also, this is a La Niña year, meaning water temperatures will be warmer than usual and there’s less wind shear to tear apart storms.