Tropical Storms Marco and Laura threatening the Gulf Coast
Rain from Tropical Storm Marco is likely to bring areas of flash flooding to the Florida Panhandle Monday and Monday night, while the Florida Keys get brushed from Tropical Storm Laura as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. Both storms are expected to avoid South Carolina.
After attaining hurricane status for a short time Sunday afternoon, strong wind shear caused Marco to weaken to a tropical storm late Sunday evening. Even though the center of the storm is forecast to weaken further, widespread heavy rain was spreading into the Florida Panhandle late Sunday night into Monday morning. The National Weather Service issued Flash Flood Watches for Escambia county south of Interstate 10, and for the Emerald and Forgotten coasts from Panama City to Apalachicola and St. Marks. 2 to 6 inches of rain is forecast within the watch area, which may be enough to initiate flash flooding where the most persistent downpours develop.
Thunderstorms in the Gulf of Mexico had shown signs of rotation according to radar data Sunday evening. Forecasters at NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center said in their early morning update that the potential for tornadoes was unclear, but if they did occur, they would likely be along the immediate coast from Apalachicola westward to Pensacola.
Occasional rain bands are likely to continue Monday night before slowly diminishing on Tuesday morning over the Panhandle as the center of Marco weakens and moves toward the Louisiana coastline.
Tropical Storm Laura strengthened some overnight Sunday and had top sustained winds of 65 mph as of mid-morning Monday. The center of the storm is near the central coast of Cuba and is forecast to move across western Cuba Monday afternoon and into the Gulf of Mexico Monday night. Tropical storm force winds extended out about 175 miles from the center, requiring the issuance of a Tropical Storm Warning for the Middle and Lower Keys. Occasional rain bands are likely to produce brief tropical storm force gusts within the warning area Monday afternoon into Monday night before the winds gradually diminish on Tuesday. Gusty winds are forecast to extend into the Gold, Treasure, and even parts of the Space Coasts Monday, where wind advisories are in effect, but tropical storm conditions were not expected in those areas.
Forecasters at The National Hurricane Center said Laura was likely intensify into a hurricane by Tuesday afternoon over the Gulf. The forecast cone indicates Laura is likely to make landfall along the Louisiana or upper Texas coasts late Wednesday night or Thursday morning as a category 2 hurricane. However, forecasters there warned that the storm will be in a favorable environment for strengthening and have suggested Laura could be even stronger prior to landfall.