Two months to go on a relatively quiet hurricane season, and yet again there is a system struggling to develop in the Caribbean of Gulf of Mexico. Residents of Florida and the Gulf Coast have already been teased several times this season by storms that never came or never formed. And while this one doesn’t show much promise either, it does have an opportunity to head north and potentially impact the United States.
Invest 97-L, as identified by the National Hurricane Center as having a 50% chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm by Friday, is located a couple hundred miles southwest of Jamaica and is drifting to the northwest at approximately 10 mph. Thunderstorm activity detected on satellite appeared to be getting slightly better organized on the eastern half of the system Tuesday, but the disturbance still did not exhibit a closed circulation or significant area of low pressure. Factors that could foster future development such as low wind shear and warm water temperatures are present, but Invest 97-L will have to fight through some dry air and the nearby land of the Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday. Hurricane Hunters have been scheduled to fly into the system on Wednesday afternoon, and that would likely be the earliest it would be classified a depression.
The forecast for Invest 97-L is for it to continue moving northwest and pass into the southern Gulf of Mexico by Thursday where slow strengthening into a weak tropical storm is possible. The window for development would likely close quickly thereafter thanks to the increase in wind shear that would accompany an approaching trough of low pressure from Texas and Louisiana. The interactions of this trough, a surface cold front, and the large high pressure system currently anchored over the Mid-Atlantic states will all play a role in the eventual strength and track of Invest 97-L. At the very least, heavy rainfall can be expected near and a couple of hundred miles to the east of where it makes landfall, which at this point is most-likely somewhere between New Orleans and Panama City. Residents of the Florida panhandle and the entire Gulf Coast should closely monitor future updates on the progress and development of Invest 97-L.