The National Hurricane Center's Wednesday afternoon update gives an area of disturbed weather in the central Caribbean a 70 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression in the next day or two. What might happen after that is worth watching by everyone along the entire U.S. Gulf of Mexico coastline.
Computer models generated by Wednesday afternoon runs show a wide variety of possible tracks with landfall projected anywhere from the middle of Louisiana to Florida's Big Bend. In his Wednesday blog entry Weather Underground founder Dr. Jeff Masters says unlike some storms that enter the Gulf of Mexico, 97 is not likely to experience explosive growth. "The atmosphere will grow drier as 97L moves northwards over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday and Friday, and the drier air combined with increasing wind shear will retard development, making rapid intensification unlikely."
According to Masters the key factor to watch is a low pressure trough combined with a cold front that's due to hit Louisiana over the weekend and some of the best computer programs disagree on how that system will affect Invest 97. "The GFS model develops 97L into a tropical storm, and predicts landfall will occur along the Florida Panhandle. The European model, which does not develop 97L into a tropical storm, is farther west, taking the storm over Eastern Louisiana."
In this case, Masters is being very broad in his bottom line predictions. "I give a 30% chance 97L will be Tropical Storm Karen with top winds of 40 - 60 mph at landfall between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle on Saturday, a 5% chance it will be stronger, and a 65% chance it will be a tropical depression or mere tropical disturbance. Heavy rains of 3 - 6" can be expected falling the coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle on Saturday, even if 97L does not develop into a tropical depression."
Invest 97 may not be a catastrophe in the making, but it is does have the potential of becoming a major weather event and it's well worth keeping an eye on.