Tropical Storm Alex moved fairly quickly over the Yucatan Peninsula this weekend, entering the Gulf of Mexico last night. He also maintained his integrity very well while over land. Banding features and central low development actually continued while transiting the peninsula. Thus, T.D. Alex reintensified into T.S. Alex just prior to moving back over water.
T.S. Alex’s current position is 20.3N, 91.7W; his maximum sustained winds are 60mph; is moving NNW @ 6mph; and his central pressure is now 989mb.
The lowering central pressure and resulting increasing wind speeds indicate that Alex will continue to intensify as he moves over the warm Gulf waters and enjoys upper-level venting support. Whereas forecasts last week had Alex remaining as a Tropical Storm until his eventual landfall, it now looks like Alex will strengthen into the 2010 season’s first hurricane. If conditions remain favorable, Alex could even intensify into the season’s first major hurricane also (>= Category 3 strength).
T.S. Alex’s official track forecast over the next 3 days takes him on a gently arcing path through the southern Gulf of Mexico, potentially making landfall near the Mexico/Texas coast this Thursday. After 3 days, the storm is projected to move near the Mexican/Texas border through Saturday. There remains considerable division in model track solutions with some showing something akin to the official track forecast while others show a marked turn to the north as the storm approaches land. At this time, the only effect that has is to shift the point of landfall further north along the Texas coast.
T.S. Alex’s official intensity forecast calls for a Category 1 storm to form by tomorrow morning and a Category 2 storm by Wednesday morning. He is projected to make landfall as a hurricane Thursday morning. Interestingly, it looks as though most intensity models show Alex strengthening to just below hurricane strength. The official forecast relies more on models that have performed the best in past years.
Alex’s growing windfield will begin impacting the Gulf oil disaster in the next couple of days. Winds will turn easterly and increase in strength, even though Alex is hundreds of miles away from the disaster site itself. This will have the effect of pushing oily water back into the coasts of LA/MS/AL.