The Wharton County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Coordinator Andy Kirkland provided an update Friday afternoon regarding what has been named Tropical Depression 14.
As of 11:35 a.m., the tropical depression was moving northwestward over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and is expected to strengthen as it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), which works closely with the OEM.
According to the NWS, the depression is moving toward the northwest near 14 mph. A slower northwestward motion is expected over the next couple of days, followed by an increase in speed by Sunday and Monday. On the forecast track, the center of the depression will move from the coast of Honduras today and will approach the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico on Saturday.
The storm’s center will then cross the northwestern part of the Yucatan Peninsula Saturday night and move over the central Gulf of Mexico toward the northwestern Gulf on Sunday and Monday.
Maximum sustained winds are near 35 mph, with higher gusts. Strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days and the depression is expected to become a tropical storm later today, NWS said. The system is forecast to be near or at hurricane strength when it reaches the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico late Saturday. Some weakening is expected as it moves over the Yucatan. Afterward, restrengthening is forecast on Sunday as it moves offshore and enters the southern Gulf of Mexico.
Despite the update from the National Weather Service, Kirkland said it was a low-confidence forecast.
In his synopsis of the advisory, Kirkland said, “The forecasted forward speeds of the system and the predicted (wind) shear near landfall have remained fairly constant in the forecasts, but forecast confidence is low. The intensity forecasts are always scary, but I think if we plan for a (category) 1 storm with constant inland movement, Wharton County will be OK.”
He told The County Gin, “I do not expect any effects in Wharton County this weekend. We are meeting with the NWS twice a day this weekend to exchange information. (Right now,) it is a low-confidence forecast that I expect to get better after the storm gets away from land interaction with the Yucatan.
“I will start to more closely watch the U.S. landfall forecast after the system leaves the Yucatan’s northern coast. If the forecast landfall is in the GLS (Galveston) region or westward, I would anticipate EOC (Emergency Operations Center) activation sometime Tuesday. We will update again tomorrow (Saturday) after the 10:30 a.m. NWS webinar. You still have time to check your supplies and plans.”
For more information and radar tracking of Tropical Depression 14, visit the National Weather Service website.