The tropics are heating up; looking back at Alicia

Hurricane Alicia 1983 courtesy NOAA
Hurricane Alicia 1983 courtesy NOAA

The picture above is Hurricane Alicia, which struck Galveston on this day in 1983 (technically 1 a.m. on the 18th) as a major Cat. 3 hurricane. Billions of dollars of damage and 21 deaths resulted.

Coincidentally, Alicia formed on an August front (sound familiar?). With warm water and light breezes, Alicia muscled up from a tropical storm to 115 mph winds in just a day. Between the wind, a 12-foot storm tide and 22 tornadoes, Alicia would become a small but devastating hurricane for Galveston and Houston. Shards of glass from the downtown buildings fell like rocks, sticking in the hoods of cars. Here’s a link to our “remembering Alicia” story a couple of years ago.

Today, I’ve had a lot of viewers asking about two tropical disturbances in the Atlantic -- both with a 50% and 60% chance to develop and heading west.

NHC Forecast for the next 5 days

Models are not terrific this far out as to what these will do, but here’s what I can tell you: the Caribbean is ripe for a system to develop. Wind shear is expected to calm down there by Thursday.

Wind Shear Thursday is minimal over the Caribbean

And the water is not only warm, it’s deep! Hurricanes draw fuel from that deep well of warm water--look at those red regions below:

Tropical Heat Potential

So, given such conditions and current movement, the American model for Friday shows this placement:

American model shows system one developing in the Caribbean and system two headed there courtesy Tropical Tidbits

What then?

A Caribbean storm, as we know, always has an excellent chance to move into the Gulf. This weekend, high pressure will be stationed to our northeast from Arkansas to the East Coast and that effectively blocks a storm from heading there. My concern is that it leaves the Texas and Louisiana coastlines vulnerable. Hurricanes always follow the path of least resistance and we’re it. I’ve highlighted our coast in yellow.

High Pressure to our northeast leaves us vulnerable to hurricanes!

So those disturbances are way out there, for now, but this is the time we have to be on guard. When can we relax? Usually, by mid-October, we’re in the clear while the season itself goes until Nov. 30.

And remember this: in 1983 we only had ONE major hurricane the whole season -- Alicia.


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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.