Tropical Storms Laura, Marco Expected to Strengthen in Gulf

August 24, 2020by Alex Harris, Devoun Cetoute, and Michelle Marchante, Miami Herald (TNS)
Radar view of Tropical Storm Laura. (Courtesy of NOAA)

MIAMI — Florida’s impacts from the dual storms approaching the Gulf of Mexico appeared to be limited to stormy weather in the Florida Keys, which could begin Monday evening, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. update.

The Keys remain under a tropical storm watch, but Monroe County pulled back its mandatory evacuation orders for residents of mobile homes and boats Sunday morning.

Louisiana, on the other hand, could be in for a double whammy this week with two hurricanes forecast to make landfall in the Gulf Coast state mere days from each other, starting with the soon-to-form Hurricane Marco.

Tropical Storm Laura is not far behind as she is on track to hit Cuba and then head toward Louisiana.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that he declare a pre-landfall emergency for the state in anticipation of Tropical Storm Laura. He named 34 counties, including Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach.

Tropical Storm Laura

As of 11 a.m., Tropical Storm Laura had finished crossing over Hispaniola without taking too much damage from the high mountain range. Surface observations showed the storm was just west of Haiti’s westernmost coast Sunday morning with 50 mph maximum sustained winds.

Forecasters said Laura will spend all of Monday dragging diagonally across Cuba at about the same intensity before emerging into the warm and storm-fueling waters of the Gulf that evening. From there, the hurricane center predicted rapid strengthening from a Tropical Storm with 50 mph winds all the way to at least a category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds.

The hurricane center also warned that “the system could be somewhat stronger than explicitly indicated” by the time it makes landfall, which could be somewhere along the Texas and Louisiana coast.

The storm brought heavy rainfall to Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, and forecasters expect it to menace Cuba on Sunday on its path away from Florida. Like Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Cuba is expected to see four to eight inches of rain, with a full foot in some places.

The forecast track for Laura shows mainland Florida outside its path and only a portion of the Florida Keys in the cone. But the National Weather Service in Miami tweeted Saturday afternoon that “some impact is STILL POSSIBLE over mainland South Florida, especially if Laura tracks north of the current forecast.”

Forecasters also don’t see Marco as aiding Laura in her path, “At this time it does not seem likely that Marco, which is forecast to make landfall on the north-central Gulf coast a day or two earlier than Laura, should have much of an influence on the latter system.”

Outside of the Keys, South Florida likely won’t feel the effects of Laura despite the fact that tropical-storm-force winds extend 140 miles from the center, mainly to the north, according to the National Hurricane Center. There is about a 3% probability that mainland Miami-Dade County experiences tropical-storm-force winds, defined as sustained winds of up to 73 mph. The chances are closer to 19% in Key West.

Tropical Storm Marco

At 11 a.m. Sunday, Marco had 70-mph maximum sustained winds with higher gusts and is about 325 miles southeast the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm is headed north-northwest at 14 mph.

Marco is “on the cusp of becoming a hurricane, but is not quite there yet,” forecasters said. It will likely approach the Gulf Coast as a category 1 with 75 mph winds, although the models don’t quite agree on where exactly the storm will make landfall in Texas or Louisiana on Monday.

A gradual turn toward the west with some slowing down is expected after Marco moves inland on Monday and on Tuesday.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center.

Watches/Warning for tropical storms Laura, Marco

— Cuba issued a tropical storm warning early Sunday for the Cuban provinces of Ciego De Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Mayabeque, La Habana, Artemisa, Pinar del Rio, and the Isle of Youth.

— Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for the northern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the border with Haiti, the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque, the northern coast of Haiti from Le Mole St. Nicholas to the border with the Dominican Republic, the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

— The Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Ciego De Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Mayabeque, La Habana, and Artemisa are also under tropical storm warnings.

— Tropical storm watches remain in effect for the central Bahamas, Andros Island, the Florida Keys from Ocean Reef to Key West and the Dry Tortugas, Florida Bay and the Cuban province of Pinar Del Rio.

— Hurricane warning remain in effect for Morgan City, Louisiana to the mouth of the Pearl River.

— Storm Surge warnings in effect for Morgan City Louisiana to Ocean Springs Mississippi, including Lake Borgne.

— Storm Surge Watch in effect from the Sabine Pass to Morgan City, Louisiana; Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans.

— Hurricane Watch in effect for Intracoastal City, Louisiana to west of Morgan City. Watch also in effect Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans.

— Tropical storm warning in effect from the mouth of the Pearl River to the Mississippi/Alabama border. Warning also in effect for Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans.

— Tropical Storm Watch in effect from the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Alabama/Florida border.

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©2020 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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