A developing tropical wave currently passing by the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is forecast to impact the northern Mexican or Texas coast by Saturday morning. The National Hurricane Center has placed an 80% probability that the wave develops into a tropical storm in the next two days. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Aircraft is scheduled to fly into the storm today to collect wind data that will help forecasters determine the future path and intensity of the storm.
Current hurricane models track the storm into northern Mexico or the Texas coast. For rain to reach Oklahoma, the storm would need to hit the Texas coast, and the remnants of the storm would have to turn north into the state. If this occurs, the storm may pass near Oklahoma around Sunday into Monday. However, there is hope that isolated showers may develop in southern Oklahoma as early as Friday and Saturday. Even with the storm just making landfall in Texas, the storm may influence the weather as far north as southern Oklahoma, helping to form rain showers in the state.
Inhibiting the northward progression of the tropical system into Oklahoma is the large upper-level high pressure system that has been dominant in the southern United States, and over Oklahoma, for the majority of the summer. This is a common feature in summer weather, but has been very strong this year. Forecasters are looking for any weakness in the pressure field that might allow the tropical storm to move into the area.
In response to the potential of the tropical system affecting the area, the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, OK has placed a 20% probability of rainfall on Tuesday for Oklahoma City. Their forecast discussion explains that lower high temperatures on Friday and Saturday and showers in south central and southeast Oklahoma are possible due to the oncoming tropical system. Even lower high temperatures would be a releif in the hottest summer on record to date.
During the Oklahoma City heat wave that has seen almost daily high temperatures over 100 degrees since mid-June, the entire state of Oklahoma has also been mired in drought conditions. The low amounts of rain experienced over this summer has put 43% of Oklahoma into Exceptional Drought conditions (category 4 on the 0-4 scale), and 98% of Oklahoma in at least a moderate drought (at least category 1 on the 0-4 scale). Those statistics are according to the US Department of Agriculture, which maintains the US Drought Monitor.
During the summer, the main source of rainfall has been daily “pop-up” or “popcorn” thunderstorms. These storms are very small in area, typically don’t travel very far, and last only a couple of hours. These storms have not been very beneficial in releaving drought conditions across the state. There have been very few large, organized storm systems to travel across the state that would provide much needed rain. It is these large, organized systems forecasters are looking for to help relieve the current drought.
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