As we enter the heart of hurricane season, twin tropical cyclones are aimed at the U.S. mainland, with both poised to make landfall early next week — possibly on the same day.
This would be the first time two hurricanes occur in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time, which could happen Monday or Tuesday as the storms intensify.
The first of the two storms is Tropical Storm Laura.
As of 11 p.m. Friday, Laura had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was about 195 miles east-southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, according to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center. It was moving west-northwest at 18 mph.
Tropical storm warnings were in place for the southeastern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, and warnings were also in place for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as for parts of the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Laura was expected to move near or over parts of the Northern Leeward Islands Friday night, near or over Puerto Rico Saturday morning, and then near the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti that night and Sunday morning, according to the hurricane center. Rain of 3 to 6 inches and in some areas up to 8 inches was possible over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands through Sunday, which could cause urban flash flooding and mudslides.
On the current forecast track, the storm will approach South Florida as a strong tropical storm on Monday, then enter the Gulf of Mexico and intensify into a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday with landfall occurring along the Gulf Coast late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.
Miami to the Florida Keys to New Orleans needs to be on guard. The most likely arrival time of tropical-storm-force winds for Miami and Florida Keys is Monday morning, Tampa on Monday evening and New Orleans on Tuesday.
The second storm, Tropical Depression 14, strengthened to Tropical Storm Marco late Friday.
As of 11 p.m., it had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, was about 180 miles southeast of Cozumel Mexico and was moving north-northwest at 13 mph, the hurricane center said.
A hurricane watch was up from Punta Herrero to Cancun, Mexico. The storm is expected to hit the eastern Yucatan Peninsula over the weekend with 3 to 6 inches of rain, locally up to 10 inches, possible through Sunday.
This system is forecasted to enter the Gulf of Mexico and intensify into a Category 1 hurricane Monday with landfall occurring along the Gulf Coast sometime late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.
Brownsville, Texas, to Houston to New Orleans needs to be on guard. The most likely arrival time of tropical-storm-force winds for these locations is Monday evening.
When Tropical Storm Laura was named on Friday morning, it broke the record for the earliest 12th storm on record.
When the tropical depression was upgraded to Tropical Storm Marco Friday night, it broke the record for the earliest 13th storm on record.
This is on the heels of eight other storms that set the same record this season already: Cristobal, Edouard, Fay, Hanna, Gonzalo, Isaias, Josephine and Kyle.
Given the current forecast, it is feasible there could be three U.S. landfalls in three consecutive days. Laura on Monday on south Florida or the Florida Keys, Tropical Depression 14 (Marco) on Tuesday along the Gulf Coast, and then Laura again on Wednesday along the Gulf Coast.
The record shortest time between U.S. landfalls is 23 hours on Sept. 4 and 5, 1933.
Will the two systems merge? Can they become a “super-hurricane”?
The answer is no. When tropical cyclones interact with each other, the end result is they usually both weaken to a certain extent. This interaction is called the “Fujiwhara Effect,” which describes when tropical cyclones “orbit” or “dance” around each other. Dueling tropical cyclones do not play nice, and their circulations ultimately disrupt each other, promoting a weakening process. Interaction can, however, cause a shift in the track.
Over the next 24 to 48 hours confidence will grow in the track and intensity of both storms. For now, approximately 1,400 miles of U.S. coastline is in one of the cones of uncertainty so all residents along the southeast Florida and Gulf Coasts should have their hurricane plans in place and ready to go.