The sixth named tropical storm of the season, Franklin, formed early Monday in the western Caribbean Sea. It is now on a definite strengthening trend and could be upgraded to the seasons first hurricane before it makes landfall on the Yucatan peninsula late Monday.
A hurricane watch is in effect for the coast of Mexico from Chetumal to Punta Allen. Tropical storm warnings begin in Belize City in Belize and curve around the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to Campeche on its western side. The popular resort destinations of Cancun and Cozumel are included in the tropical storm warning.
Hardest hit areas could receive 3 to 6 inches of rain, with isolated amounts to 12 inches. These rains could produce life-threatening flash floods, the National Hurricane Center cautions. At least tropical-storm-force winds are likely, and some gusts over hurricane force (74 mph) are possible.
Although predicting the path of tropical storms can sometimes be challenging, there is little doubt that Franklin is on a crash course with the Yucatan. Computer model forecasts of its track are tightly clustered, which gives forecasters high confidence as to where its headed.
The storms intensity forecast is trickier. Although very few models predict it will reach hurricane intensity, that can absolutely not be ruled out. The storm is now in an environment where rapid intensification can occur.
After passing over the Yucatan, it is likely to merge over the Bay of Campeche on Tuesday afternoon. It will then have 36-48 hours over the warm waters there and has a good chance to re-intensify, possibly (re)attaining hurricane strength before its second and final landfall in Mexico (although theres a remote possibility that it could cross over Mexico and reform near the tip of the Baja peninsula, then hit Mexico a third time).
Franklin is the sixth named storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. Using the entirety of hurricane records dating back to 1851, the average date of the sixth named storm formation is Sept. 20 so Franklin formed a whopping six weeks ahead of an average season. However, no storm this season has lasted more than two days and none have produced peak winds above 57 mph (50 knots), so Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) is just 44 percent of average for this date.
Franklin is strongly reminiscent of another storm that formed in the same area in 2012: Ernesto. Franklin is forecast to make landfall over the Yucatan at almost the exact same location, date and hour as Ernesto.
A long radar loop from Belize will aid in tracking Franklins structure as it approaches the coast (Ernesto, from 2012, is also available for comparison).
The storm name Franklin was first used in 2005, and replaced Floyd, which was retired after its infamous 1999 incarnation.
Another disturbance being monitored
Farther east, we are watching a disturbance make the trek across the deep tropics east of the Lesser Antilles. As some models suggested last week, it has been embedded in a hostile environment and will not be able to develop too much if at all until the Friday/Saturday time frame, when it is near the Leeward Islands. Its presently centered about 1,000 miles east of the Leeward Islands and moving toward the west-northwest at 15 mph.
We will continue to monitor this disturbance.
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