The second storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to form Wednesday or Thursday along the Gulf Coast.
The weather system, currently spinning off the coast of the Florida Panhandle, could either form as a tropical depression or a tropical storm. If the depression’s winds reach 39 mph, it would become Tropical Storm Barry.
But its eventual fate could be stronger: “This system has the potential to become a dangerous hurricane,” the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said on its Facebook page on Tuesday. “The threat for damaging winds and deadly storm surge is increasing.”
The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday morning that there’s a 90% chance a tropical depression will form within the next 48 hours in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rain, and lots of it, appears likely to be the main threat from the storm.
“Regardless of the eventual track and intensity of the system, heavy rainfall is expected from the Florida Panhandle to the Upper Texas Coast extending inland across portions of the Lower Mississippi Valley, much of Louisiana and eastern Texas,” the hurricane center said in its 8 a.m. advisory.
Officials in New Orleans are monitoring for any potential storm surge impacts on the Mississippi River, AccuWeather said.
Tropical systems are occasional visitors to the U.S. in July: The most recent July hurricane to hit the continental U.S. was Hurricane Arthur in North Carolina in 2014, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach.
“The most recent July tropical storm landfall was Tropical Storm Emily in Florida in 2017,” he said.
The strongest recent storm to make landfall in the United States in July was Hurricane Dennis, which hit the western Florida Panhandle on July 10, 2005, as a Category 3 hurricane, the Weather Channel said.