Monday’s weather forecasts increasingly noted a tropical system may develop later this week in the Gulf of Mexico, and one official reminded residents to be prepared for severe weather.
Dothan-Houston County Emergency Management Agency Director Chris Judah called the forecasts “a good wake-up call,” especially given how quickly storm forecasts can change. While Monday’s forecasts hinted the system would move westward toward Texas, Judah noted Hurricane Michael needed only 24 hours to turn from a minor storm to a Category 5 behemoth that ravaged the area in October.
“Unfortunately … these storms are completely unpredictable,” he said. “There’s no reason to be nervous. The only way you stay calm is to be prepared.”
At a 1 p.m. Monday briefing, the National Weather Service reported a low pressure system would move offshore and into the northern Gulf of Mexico. That forecast increased the probability of tropical development to 80 percent within five days, up from some earlier predictions that suggested the system only had a 50 percent chance of tropical development.
The forecast mentioned a tropical depression, with winds less than 39 mph, was “likely to form” by the end of the week. If it reaches tropical storm status, the system will be called Tropical Storm Barry.
Forecasts continue to indicate the system will be lopsided, with the majority of rain staying on the east side of the low-pressure area. That could provide good news for the drought-stricken Wiregrass as some forecasts projected the area could receive between 3 and 4 inches of rain in the next few days, Judah said.
Rain chances throughout the week hover between 60 and 70 percent in the Dothan area, the NWS’ website said Monday afternoon.
Judah said the slow-developing nature of the system provides families with plenty of opportunities to discuss evacuation plans and to replenish emergency preparedness kits. The Department of Homeland Security lists many items that should be in an emergency kit on the website ready.gov.
“Make sure you have flashlight batteries, nonperishable foods,” Judah said. “Sit down with your family this week and talk about what to do.”