Tropical-storm-force winds spread across the Florida Panhandle from Tropical Storm Claudette
As the broad system we’ve been following in the Gulf was moving ashore over the southern Louisiana coast overnight, its center of circulation consolidated enough for the system to be called a tropical storm. Winds of 45 mph had already been measured in bands to the east, so it jumped directly to Tropical Storm Claudette.
Claudette is a comma-shaped system with the worst weather in the tail of the comma well removed from the center. At a technical level, systems shaped like this generally fall into a hybrid or subtropical category, but the analysis from the National Hurricane Center was that this one was tropical enough to get the purely tropical label.
Very little weather is occurring around the center of circulation – the head of the comma. But bands of strong winds and tropical downpours are related to the tail. Winds gusting to 40 to 50 mph have swept across Alabama and the western Florida panhandle, including the Pensacola area.
The gusty winds and very heavy rain have pushed well inland where Flood Warnings are in effect for 5 to 10 inches of rain with same areas getting up to 15 inches. Some tornadoes are still possible in the heavy-rain bands.
Claudette will slowly wind down as its remnants spread across the Southeast over the weekend. By Monday it should be moving into the Atlantic where it might regenerate, but it will be heading away from the U.S. at that time.
The structure of this system was slow to develop because it originally came from two different sources of rotation. One was a broad area of low pressure over Central America that is often present this time of year. The other was a weak disturbance that trekked across the Atlantic from Africa. The legacy of these two features combined with somewhat hostile upper-level winds was likely responsible for the oddball, slow-to-develop structure.
Across the Atlantic is a huge plume of dust from Africa. The Saharan dust is causing murky skies over the southern Florida peninsula and much of the region. The dry, dusty air is helping to keep thunderstorms from developing, as well. Surges of dust are forecast to continue for the foreseeable future.
No tropical development is expected into the middle of next week, at least.