Friday, September 2, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee eyes Gulf Coast - rain and cooler temps to result in the Mid-South

Recently-upgraded Tropical Storm Lee is meandering ever so slowly over the northern Gulf of Mexico, roughly 180 miles west-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River as of 7pm CDT Friday. Maximum sustained wind has increased to 45 mph today and will increase a little more as it creeps towards the south-central LA coastline over the next 24-36 hours. Landfall is expected in LA overnight Saturday night before the center of Lee moves directly over New Orleans by Monday morning and then to a point in central AL by Wednesday as it gets absorbed into a frontal system.  See the current track from StormPulse (my tracking site of choice) below.
Tropical Storm Lee tracking map, courtesy
Because the storm is moving so slowly, the track is still a little uncertain, especially past 2-3 days.  The one thing that is certain is that the Gulf Coast - from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle - is going to get unbelievable rain totals.  Many locations will see 12-16" of rain, while some totals from today through early next week could be well over 20"!  For an area that needs rain pretty badly, this might actually be too much of a good thing!
5 day total precipitation from the NWS. A maximum of 23.2" is predicted from Lee, centered over New Orleans, LA.

The northern extent of cirrus clouds produced by Tropical Storm Lee make for a nice sunset over Bartlett, TN
How will Lee affect Mid-South weather?  It ultimately depends on the track and speed of the storm.  Computer models are now coming into agreement that areas east of Memphis (west TN closer to the TN River, as well as northeast MS) could see at least a few inches of rain, if not more.  The metro area seems to be right on the edge of the precipitation shield from Lee.

The one fly in the ointment is a cold front that will be moving through the region on Sunday.  Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected along the front as it encounters the warm, moist air provided by the Tropical Storm.  This will bring welcome rain to many places on Sunday with cooler temperatures as well - mid 80s in the metro. If T.S. Lee moves far enough north, the metro area could get a pretty good shot of rain Sunday night into Monday as well.

One thing that seems a little more certain is the cooler air behind the front.  We're forecasting highs only in the 70s Monday through Wednesday, as opposed to the upper 90s of the past few days! That in itself (rain or not) will be a welcome relief as summer winds down in the Bluff City!

We'll be keeping you updated via Facebook and Twitter (links below) over the weekend as Lee's future becomes a little less "cloudy." In the meantime, have a fabulous Labor Day weekend and ready Plan B in case the grill gets wet on Monday!

For weather information for Memphis and the Mid-South, where and when you need it, visit on the web, on your mobile phone, download our iPhone or Android apps, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

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