TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Invest 98L officially formed Friday morning to become Tropical Depression Nine, and is expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico next week.
People all along the Gulf Coast of the United States have been keeping a close eye on forecast models and asking whether or not it could eventually come their way. However, it’s still too soon to say where the system will go once it makes it to the Gulf.
“We have a relatively high confidence that this system will enter the Gulf,” WFLA Meteorologist Rebecca Barry said. “We have a very low confidence on where it will end up once it enters the Gulf.”
Here’s what meteorologists will be watching in the coming days to get a better idea of where Tropical Depression Nine may end up.
The first thing meteorologists were watching was formation. Now that the system has formed and become a tropical depression, we expect better data from computer models.
“It has to form for the computer models to get a better handle on exactly where it’s going to go,” WFLA Chief Meteorologist and Climate Specialist Jeff Berardelli said. “There’s a large envelope of possibilities.”
“The forecast models get so much better and so much more accurate once they have an actual center of rotation to begin their forecasting from,” Barry added.
Computer models started to give a better picture Friday morning after the depression formed.
“The National Hurricane Center calls for a Category 3 hurricane – a major hurricane – approaching the west coast of Florida early to mid-next week,” WFLA Meteorologist Amanda Holly said. “Forecast models have come in better agreement now that we have a closed center of circulation.”
Hurricane Hunter aircraft will also help provide more accurate data on Invest 98L once they start flying through the system.
“We’re going to get data points and much better information, not only about the system itself but also the environment around it and that it will be moving into,” Barry explained.
The second big question mark, according to Barry, is potential land interaction.
“Whether it scrapes by Cozumel like the American model is showing or clips over Cuba like the European model is showing,” she said. “Land interaction is always a question mark with these systems. It changes the trajectory just a little bit, it weakens it just a little bit sometimes.”
Once we see if Tropical Depression Nine interacts with land, and how that interaction potentially impacts the storm, meteorologists expect to have a better idea of where it will head next.
“You really don’t have a sure idea most of the time until it gets past that Yucatan channel area between the peninsula there and Cuba,” WGNO Chief Meteorologist Hank Allen said. “Once you go past that, obviously you have a pretty good idea.”
While it is too soon to know exactly where Tropical Depression Nine will go and what areas could potentially see impacts, meteorologists say all of the ingredients seem to be present for a large and powerful system to develop.
“I really think this is going to be one of those storms that — if you go back to maybe an ’05 like a Wilma or even a couple years ago with that active 2020 season where we saw a couple of those storms hit the Yucatan — they really just blew up in that section of the Caribbean,” Allen said. “So I think this has all the makings of a system that really sort of ‘bombs out’… in the Caribbean. Just with all the factors there.”
Our Tracking the Tropics meteorologists say the best thing to do right now is stay calm, stay aware of the forecast and just make sure your hurricane supplies are prepared in the event the system does end up impacting your area.
“At the end of the day, everybody in the northern Gulf really needs to be watching this closely,” Allen said. “Hopefully you’ve got your supplies and your preparations ready to go because I think this could be a significant system.”