Well, that was fast: the National Hurricane Center designated Tropical Depression Five at 5:00 PM EDT, and then at 6:00 PM, upgraded it to Tropical Storm Edouard in a special advisory, noting in the discussion:
WHEN THE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT PASSED THROUGH THE CONVECTION TO THE SOUTHEAST OF THE CENTER A SHORT TIME AGO…IT FOUND MAXIMUM FLIGHT LEVEL WINDS OF 54 KT AND A SURFACE PRESSURE OF 1002 MB…A DROP OF 5 MB IN AN HOUR AND A HALF. THESE DATA INDICATE THAT THE DEPRESSION HAS STRENGTHENED INTO THE FIFTH TROPICAL STORM OF THE SEASON. … EDOUARD IS NOW EXPECTED TO BE NEAR HURRICANE INTENSITY AT LANDFALL.
If this rate of intensification continues, Edouard could be stronger than that. But for now, the official forecast falls for the storm’s intensity to max out at 70 mph. Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings are up for much of the Louisiana and Texas coasts.
I’ll have more to say about this storm in an hour or two. Stay tuned.
UPDATE, 8:37 PM EDT: The most likely scenario for Edouard is that he’ll come ashore near Houston/Galveston on Tuesday morning as a strong tropical storm or a low-end Category 1 hurricane, will cause only minimal wind and storm surge damage, and will dump much-needed rain on a drought-stricken area. If that occurs, Edouard actually might do more good than harm!
That, again, is the most likely scenario. However, at the risk of being accused of “hype,” I must point out that other scenarios are also possible. In particular, it’s a little scary to see how rapidly this storm strengthened this evening, and with another 36 hours over very warm Gulf waters, you have to wonder — in light of our extremely limited ability to predict rapid intensification cycles — whether Edouard might have an expected burst of rapid deepening, and become a much stronger storm than currently expected.
Again, I am not predicting that; on the contrary, to be very clear, it probably won’t happen. But it’s impossible to be certain, given our limited forecasting ability. So, residents along the coast should remember that hurricane forecasting is inherently inexact, and they should not just assume that this thing will remain weak. It’s always wise to prepare for a hurricane at least one category above what’s forecasted, just in case, and I think that would be a particularly good idea in this instance. You don’t want to get caught off-guard by a last-minute burst of strengthening (say, overnight Monday night, for example). That’s not hype, that’s just being prudent and prepared.
Anyway, here’s a visible satellite view of Edouard:
Its maximum sustained winds are up to 50 mph as of the 8:00 PM EDT advisory, and the NHC now says that Hurricane Watches and Warnings may be necessary later tonight (i.e., at the 11:00 PM advisory).
The Houston Chronicle‘s Eric Berger writes:
I’ll have a full update tonight after the late [computer] model runs. As of now, southeast Texas remains firmly within the storm’s crosshairs, and we cannot rule out Edouard becoming a hurricane before landfall — some might argue that’s more likely than not — on Tuesday.
If you have coastal property now is the time to consider making preparations for a landfalling hurricane.
Here’s the official NHC forecast track, and the current warnings:
This will probably be my last update tonight. I’ll post the latest in the morning. In the mean time, check the National Hurricane Center website for the latest, as well as Eric Berger, the Houston Weather Blog, the Houston Chronicle‘s Hurricane Center, and the New Orleans Hurricane Center.