Tropical Storm Cristobal unloaded flooding rainfall and made landfall in southern Mexico on Wednesday, and AccuWeather meteorologists are busy looking ahead to where the storm may go after meandering across southern Mexico. The storm is expected to take a northward turn, and it could gain strength over the Gulf of Mexico prior to reaching the southern United States coastline.
Cristobal has already set records in the Atlantic basin. It became the earliest-ever third named tropical storm to form in any Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history on Tuesday. The previous storm to hold that record was Tropical Storm Colin, and it developed during the midday hours of June 5 in 2016. Typically, the third named storm does not brew until way later in the season, occurring on average around Aug. 13. Last year, the third storm of the season, Tropical Storm Chantal, developed months later on Aug. 20.
The disturbance first developed as a depression over the Bay of Campeche in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on Monday, June 1, the first official day of hurricane season. AccuWeather forecasters began monitoring the potential for this system last week.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) confirmed that Cristobal made landfall in the state of Campeche near Atasta, Mexico, and just to the west of Ciudad del Carmen at 8:35 a.m. CDT Wednesday. The storm’s maximum sustained winds were 60 mph with higher gusts occurring.
Cristobal is forecast to complete a loop over land in southeastern Mexico as it straddles 83-degree-Fahrenheit waters of the Bay of Campeche into Friday. AccuWeather meteorologists predict up to 30 inches of rainfall in the region.
How close to the coast versus how far inland Cristobal travels over Mexico could affect whether the storm regains strength this weekend.
“There is a small chance the system will break up over southern Mexico late this week, but the more likely scenario is for the storm to survive, move back out over the warm waters of the central Gulf of Mexico, reorganize, strengthen and turn northward toward the U.S. from Friday night to Sunday night,” said Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert. Kottlowski has been predicting tropical weather for 43 years at AccuWeather.
“We believe Cristobal will weaken to a tropical depression for a time over Mexico at midweek,” Kottlowski said.
If Cristobal moves a bit south over Mexico, it will interact with hills and mountains over the region. “This stronger land interaction would cause the lower-level part of the storm to unravel, making it more difficult for it to recover once it starts to move back northward,” Kottlowski said.