PALM BEACH, Fla. — The National Hurricane Center is forecasting for two tropical systems to reach hurricane strength, with both sharing the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.
One system is Tropical Storm Laura, which formed Friday morning in the Atlantic Ocean.
If that forecast holds true, it would be the first time in recorded history that two hurricanes muscled through the Gulf’s warm waters simultaneously, according to Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach.
It could also be another record breaker for 2020 with the potential for seven tropical cyclone landfalls in the continental U.S. before the end of August.
South Florida, its west coast and Panhandle remain in the path of a messy Tropical Storm Laura, which is predicted to slide north of Puerto Rico on a path toward Florida.
Although the center of Laura may stay offshore of Puerto Rico, the storm is still expected to produce 3 to 6 inches of rain over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands through Sunday, the Hurricane Center said. “Locally heavy rainfall could lead to flash and urban flooding, as well as an increased potential for mudslides. Some rivers may overflow their banks,” the Center warned.
Laura was centered about 230 miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands Friday morning, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. It was heading west at 21 mph, according to the Hurricane Center.
A tropical storm watch was in effect for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the southeastern Bahamas and several Caribbean islands. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.
The most Atlantic named storms to make landfall in the continental US (CONUS) by the end of August is 6, set in 1886 and 1916. The CONUS has already had 5 this year: Bertha, Cristobal, Fay, Hanna and Isaias. #TD13 #TD14 #hurricane pic.twitter.com/pV55VDTupO
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) August 20, 2020
NHC meteorologists warned the forecast models that predict storm intensity vary widely. The U.S. model and the Euro degenerate Laura into an open wave, while the HWRF takes it to a major hurricane.
The official forecast calls for Laura to be a strong tropical storm near South Florida as it cuts through the Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico, where it is forecast to become a Category 1 hurricane with 75-mph winds.
South Florida could begin feeling tropical-storm-force winds early Monday.
The current track, which shifted slightly south and west overnight, has Laura making landfall Wednesday in an area from the Panhandle to eastern Louisiana as a Category 1 hurricane.
The other system, Tropical Depression 14, was off the coast of Honduras early Friday and expected to become a tropical storm before hitting the Yucatan Peninsula. A hurricane watch was in effect for the strip of coast containing Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun, as well as Cozumel island.
Up to 10 inches of rain could fall on the Yucatan Peninsula from the storm, which may lead to flash flooding.
TD14 is forecast to weaken slightly in the southern Gulf of Mexico but reach hurricane strength before making a landfall Tuesday in Texas or far eastern Louisiana.
That means Louisiana could be in the path of two potential hurricanes that could make landfall within hours of each other.
The next names on the 2020 hurricane list are Marco and Nana.
Hurricane names: From Arthur to Wilfred, here’s the list of names for the 2020 season
How do storms get their names?: Naming tropical cyclones dates back to the 1800s
Laura is the earliest “L” storm on record, beating previous record holder Hurricane Luis, which formed on Aug. 29, 1995.
The record holder for earliest “M” named storm is 2005′s Hurricane Maria, which formed on Sept. 2.
This hurricane season has lived up to forecasts that called for above-normal activity. The Climate Prediction Center’s most recent estimate was for up to 25 named storms, which would require using the Greek alphabet.
There are 21 names on the six-year rotating list of storm names. The names end with the letter W and exclude Q, U, X, Y and Z.
Klotzbach said there is no record of two hurricanes existing in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time, but there is precedent for two tropical cyclones – hurricane, storm or depression – to occupy the space together.
The 1933 storms dubbed Treasure Coast and Cuba-Brownsville, and the 1959 storms Beulah and an unnamed system shared the Gulf of Mexico.
Miller reported from Palm Beach, Florida; Rice from Bethesda, Maryland.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Florida, Gulf hurricanes: NHC forecasts two tropical depressions