At a Glance
- Tropical Storm Cristobal formed in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico at midday Tuesday.
- A tropical storm warning has been posted along the Mexican coast.
- This system is likely to linger in the vicinity of the southwestern Gulf of Mexico for several days this week.
- Beyond that, it, or another tropical system is expected to move toward the U.S. Gulf Coast early next week.
- Areas near the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida should monitor the progress of this system.
- This was spawned by a large system called a Central American Gyre and the remnants of a former Eastern Pacific tropical storm.
- This gyre will produce torrential rain and life-threatening flooding and mudslides in Mexico and Central America.
Tropical Storm Cristobal is nearly stalled in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, but it could pose a threat to the U.S. Gulf Coast early next week. Before that happens, life-threatening, dangerous flooding will continue in parts of Central America and Mexico.
A tropical depression that formed Monday afternoon in the Bay of Campeche was upgraded by the National Hurricane Center to Tropical Storm Cristobal at midday Tuesday.
Cristobal is currently centered about 150 miles west of Campeche, Mexico, drifting southwestward at less than 5 mph.
A tropical storm warning has been posted along the Mexican coast from Campeche westward to Puerto de Veracruz. This means tropical-storm-force winds (39-plus mph) are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.
U.S. Gulf Coast Outlook
Cristobal is likely to linger in the vicinity of the southwestern Gulf of Mexico for several days this week, lacking any significant steering winds aloft.
This weekend, however, it’s expected to be drawn northward through the Gulf of Mexico through a break in subtropical high pressure.
That could bring Cristobal near the northern or western U.S. Gulf Coast by Sunday or Monday, anywhere from the Texas coast to the Florida Panhandle. It remains too soon to determine where Cristobal would come ashore.
Early June storms like this tend to be lopsided, with a fetch of deep, tropical moisture wringing out heavy rain, as well as onshore winds leading to coastal flooding and rip currents, extending well east of the center. So, these impacts may affect areas as far east as the Florida Peninsula even if the center moves ashore much farther west.
Wind shear, the change of wind speed and/or direction with height that typically hinders intensification of tropical cyclones, may be present in the Gulf of Mexico as Cristobal heads north.
Gulf water temperatures are currently warmer than average for early June and warm enough to support tropical development, but aren’t as warm as midsummer and deep heat content is lacking in the western Gulf.
These factors should keep a lid on intensification of Cristobal as it nears the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Interests along the Gulf coasts of the U.S. and Mexico should monitor Cristobal’s progress closely this week. Check back to weather.com for updates over the next several days. If anything, this is a reminder to refresh or develop your hurricane plan now.
Cristobal is now the record-earliest third named Atlantic storm, beating out Tropical Storm Colin from June 5, 2016.
Major Flood Threat in Mexico, Central America
The most serious threat right now is for more inundating rain over areas that have already been clobbered with torrential rain and deadly flooding in southern Mexico and Central America.
The National Hurricane Center said parts of the Pacific coasts of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico’s Chiapas state picked up 20 inches of rain last weekend. Another 10 to 20 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, is expected the next several days in those areas, as well as other Mexican states such as Tabasco, Veracruz, Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan.
Life-threatening flooding and mudslides are likely in these areas, particularly in hilly or mountainous terrain.
In addition to Cristobal, this rainfall is also being fueled by what’s called a Central American Gyre, or CAG. This “gyre” is a large, broad area of low pressure that often forms in late spring and early fall over Central America and the western Caribbean Sea.
Flooding from former Eastern Pacific Tropical Storm Amanda and its remnants caused damage and killed several people in El Salvador over the weekend.
Amanda’s leftover energy and spin played a role in triggering the development of Tropical Depression Three in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico Monday afternoon.
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