System in Gulf forecast to become tropical storm by Wednesday, forecasters say

Potential Tropical Cyclone One brewing in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to become a tropical storm by Wednesday and has prompted the National Hurricane Center to issue a tropical storm watch for parts of Texas and coastal Mexico.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, the storm was 465 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, moving north-northwest at 7 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

A tropical storm watch extended from Port O’Connor, south of Houston, south to the mouth of the Rio Grande. The government of Mexico has issued a tropical storm watch for the northeastern coast of Mexico, south of the mouth of the Rio Grande to Boca de Catan.

The hurricane center said the disturbance is “quite large” and has tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 290 miles to the northeast of the center. The system is likely to approach the western Gulf coast late Wednesday. Its odds of forming in the next two days increased to 80% by Monday night.

Forecasters urged people to not focus solely on the storm’s forecast track.

“The disturbance is very large with rainfall, coastal flooding, and wind impacts likely to occur far from the center along the coasts of Texas and northeastern Mexico,” the hurricane center said.

Rainfall could be significant and potentially dangerous, given the mountainous terrain in some of the region.

Rainfall totals of 5 to 10 inches across northeast Mexico into South Texas are possible, with maximum totals of 15 inches. Flash flooding and mudslides are potential hazards.

Storm surge is also a concern, particularly along the flatter areas of the Texas coast. Galveston Bay could see 2 to 4 feet of surge.

If the disturbance strengthens into a tropical storm — the first of the season — it will be named Alberto.

Separate from the potential tropical storm, forecasters are also watching for another broad area of low pressure to develop in the same region of the Gulf this weekend, the hurricane center said Monday night.

As of 8 p.m., that separate disturbance had a 20% chance of forming in the next seven days. It could gradually develop early next week while it moves north or northwest, the hurricane center said.

Forecasters are also watching for a yet-to-emerge disturbance that could develop northeast of the central Bahamas and could approach the southern U.S. East Coast, potentially including Florida, on Thursday or Friday.

It has a 20% chance of development over the next seven days, with some slow development possible thereafter while the system moves westward or west-northwestward.

The 2024 hurricane season, which officially began June 1, is expected to be extremely active. Monday’s watch was the first of the 2024 hurricane season, which forecasters say will be a strong one.

In its annual May outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the 2024 hurricane season has an 85% chance of being above normal, with 17 to 25 named storms with minimum sustained winds of 39 mph, and eight to 13 hurricanes. An average year has 14 named storms and seven hurricanes.

In addition, NOAA has forecast four to seven major hurricanes for 2024, meaning those that are Category 3 or above.

Experts at Colorado State University stated in their 2024 forecast that the U.S. East Coast, including Florida, had a 34% chance of a major hurricane making landfall this year. The average from 1880-2020 was 21%.

Forecasters say that the record-warm water temperatures that now cover much of the Atlantic Ocean will continue into peak hurricane season from August to October. That warm water fuels hurricanes. By early June, the tropical Atlantic was already as hot as it usually is in mid-August — peak hurricane season.

Hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30.

Sun Sentinel staff writers Robin Webb and Bill Kearney contributed to this report.