Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Hurricane Laura strengthens; remnants to impact the Mid-South

Laura became a hurricane in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico this morning about 7am and has intensified only slightly since that time as it churns northwestward towards the central Gulf Coast. However, more rapid intensification is expected over the next 24 hours as it nears the coast, ultimately reaching major hurricane (category 3) status by the time it reaches the coast near the TX/LA border overnight Wednesday night. Here's a look at the visible satellite imagery of an organizing Laura the last couple of hours before sunset Tuesday:

The track provided by the National Hurricane Center at 4pm Tuesday (below) shows the turn from the west to north tonight and tomorrow and landfall around midnight Wednesday night with maximum sustained wind of 115 mph and gusts to 140 mph! It should be noted that there is still some discrepancy between the models, and it is entirely possible that it could be a bit stronger than that. In addition, the Hurricane Warning extends as far west as Galveston Bay (Houston) and the storm could still shift a bit more to the west towards the greater Houston metro. Needless to say, a strong category 3 storm sideswiping a massive American city like Houston during a pandemic could be devastating (2020, it that you?), but no matter where the center hits (Beaumont, Lake Charles, or vicinity), the results will be simply awful.

After landfall, Laura will take a path north along the TX/LA border into Arkansas by Thursday evening, still as a tropical storm. By Thursday night, Tropical Storm Laura is near Little Rock and starting to take a turn to the east as it gets caught up in strong westerly wind flow. The center of the remnants should be north of Jonesboro near the AR/MO line by Friday afternoon then swiftly move by to our north and across KY through mid-day Saturday.

As for Mid-South impacts, we will know it passed nearby. We'll see chances of showers and thunderstorms for the next couple of days leading up to its approach, but our best chance for impact-ful weather from Laura will be late Thursday through Friday night. This is when we could see wind gusts close to 40 mph (particularly daytime Friday) with sustained wind to 20-30 mph. In addition, periods of heavy rain are likely Friday into Friday night, though heavy downpours could be scattered about or in bands Thursday afternoon as well. In addition, tropical remnants are occasionally known to throw out (typically weak) tornadoes, and we'll be on the right side of the storm track for those to possibly occur, again most likely Friday when temperatures are warmest and instability highest.

The main threat though, besides some trash can throwing wind gusts, will be heavy rain. The Weather Prediction Center currently has much of AR right up to the Mississippi River in a Moderate Risk for excessive rainfall capable of producing flash flooding Thursday into Friday morning, though I expect a similar threat to be extended in to Friday. For now, west TN and northwest MS are in a Slight Risk, but that may be higher on Friday as the storm passes to our north. Current rainfall projections from the NWS are between 4-5" for the metro through Sunday evening. This does include additional showers and scattered thunderstorms this weekend after the storm passes as well.

My suggestions for preparation on Wednesday and Thursday:
  • Tie down or bring inside any loose outdoor objects, including patio seat cushions!
  • Make sure gutters and storm drains are clear of debris and ready to accept heavy rain.
  • Know where you'll go and have your safe place ready just in case a Tornado Warning is issued
  • If out in heavy rain, avoid swollen waterways (and watch your kids closely too) and don't drive into areas where water covers the road.
Scattered showers and thunderstorms unfortunately remain in the forecast for several days after Laura's remnants pass, so remember that after heavy rain has saturated the ground from Laura, additional rainfall is more likely to run off and result in flooding in low-lying areas more easily. There are early hints of a potential pattern shift as we hit the first of September. Let's get through this week first though!

Stay safe and follow us on social media for the latest information!

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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