The remnants of Hurricane Agatha have reformed over the Gulf of Mexico and will likely strengthen into Tropical Storm Alex, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday.
"A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the west coast of the Florida peninsula south of the Middle of Longboat Key and for the east coast of the Florida peninsula south of the Volusia/Brevard County line, including Lake Okeechobee," the National Hurricane Center said in a 4 p.m. bulletin. "A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for all of the Florida Keys, including the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay."
Meteorological models show that the system, which currently has sustained winds of 35 miles per hour, will take aim at southern Florida this weekend, where it could dump up to 20 inches of rain over parts of the state. The ground is already saturated there from heavy precipitation in recent days.
“These heavy rains could cause scattered to numerous flash floods across South Florida and the Florida Keys,” the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. ET bulletin on Thursday.
In order to become a named storm, the tropical depression would need to intensify and attain sustained winds of 39 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center said Thursday that there was a 90% chance of that happening over the next 48 hours.
Should the disturbance become Tropical Storm Alex, it will be the first named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began on June 1.
The storm first began as Hurricane Agatha, a Category 2 storm that slammed into Mexico's southwestern coast on Monday as the strongest storm in recorded history to make landfall in the southeastern Pacific in the month of May. The storm caused widespread coastal flooding, mudslides and power outages across several states, and the death toll from Agatha rose to 11 on Wednesday, with 33 people still reported as missing.
While Agatha quickly dissipated as it crossed southern Mexico, the remnants of the storm still pose a threat to the U.S.
“Despite strong upper-level winds, this system is likely to become a tropical depression or tropical storm while it moves slowly northeastward over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and southeastern Gulf of Mexico during the next day or two,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Interests in western Cuba, the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula should monitor the progress of this system, and tropical storm watches or warnings could be required for some of these areas later today.”
As the reconstituted storm continues to take shape, tropical storm watches or warnings could be issued for parts of Florida, the National Hurricane Center said.
A key factor in the intensification of tropical cyclones is water temperature. The warmer the water, the greater the chance that a storm can rapidly intensify. Numerous studies have concluded that, thanks to climate change, tropical cyclones will intensify faster. While it is early in hurricane season, water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are already sufficient for that.
“Water temperatures are a few degrees above average and generally in the 80s F in the path of the storm from the northwestern Caribbean to the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Straits and waters just east of Florida,” AccuWeather said on its website. “The critical temperature for tropical development is about 77 degrees.”
Another factor is wind shear, and it remains to be seen what effect that will have on the formation of Alex. Even if the system does not become a named storm, however, forecast models show that South Florida can expect a massive amount of rain in the coming days that will likely result in flash flooding.