An unusual weather system hovering in the Gulf of Mexico will strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall later this week, most likely along the Louisiana coast, according to National Hurricane Center warnings issued Wednesday evening.
The center late Wednesday issued a hurricane watch covering most of coastal Louisiana and cautioned that substantial flooding could occur in areas near the coast.
Galveston County cities late Wednesday were still awaiting more detailed forecasts about the storm’s local effects.
“It’s still too early,” said Sarah Greer Osborne, spokeswoman for League City, Wednesday afternoon.
Cities across the middle parts of Galveston County on Wednesday sent crews out to clear debris from drainage ditches and continued watching forecasts, officials said.
“We’re monitoring the weather very closely and operating at an increased level,” said Tom Munoz, emergency manager for the city of Texas City.
The system is somewhat unusual because it reached the Gulf on Wednesday morning via the Mississippi River Valley, rather than from the Atlantic Ocean, where most tropical disturbances form.
As of Wednesday afternoon, while a broad area of thunderstorms was hovering over the Gulf, a defined system still hadn’t formed, said Jimmy Fowler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in League City.
Until forecasters have a defined system to base models on, projections would continue to have a lot of uncertainty, Fowler said.
“The current track has it moving east of us and going into southwest Louisiana,” Fowler said. “But Houston is in that larger cone, which is not necessarily where the range of impacts will come. But as of right now, we are anticipating there could be some heavy rainfall.”
Current projections have the storm becoming a Category 1 hurricane in the early hours of Saturday, shortly before making landfall, Fowler said. The storm might generate wind speeds of about 85 mph near its center and winds of more than than 40 mph for many miles around the center, according to the hurricane center.
“As of now, we expect projections to change quite a bit,” Fowler said. “Here, we have a sharp gradient from heavy rainfall to not so much. Where the exact track goes will determine how much — a slight shift left or right can change a lot.”
If the disturbance does form into a tropical cyclone, it would be named Barry.
The energy company Entergy Texas, which represents customers on Bolivar Peninsula, on Wednesday announced it would position crews and contractors in the area to respond in the event of power outages.