The slow moving disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico strengthened this afternoon into the 4th named storm of the 2012 hurricane season. It's name is Tropical Storm Debby. Debby has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph as of 6pm on Saturday. Tropical Storm Debby comes way ahead of schedule for the Atlantic to see the 4th named storm. On average this is exactly two months ahead of schedule. In fact, Tropical Storm Debby is the earliest 4th named storm in recorded history beating the previous record by twelve days.
The Hurricane Hunters flew in earlier on Saturday and found a closed circulation with Debby and wind gusts as high as 65 mph. Much of Florida has been seeing persistent rainfall and gusty winds as a result of Debby today. As far as organization goes, Debby has her issues. There’s plenty of thunderstorm activity to the east of its circulation, but dry air and wind shear is keeping thunderstorms away from the west side and over the center of circulation. This is all despite warm Gulf waters that are one degrees above normal for this time of year.
However, Debby is forecast to slowly strengthen in the coming days. At this time, it’s not anticipated that it will become a hurricane. Wind shear is forecasted to strengthen by the middle of this next week, which limit how much it can strenghten. Things could change though. The forecast for Debby is still uncertain. The thinking currently is for her to drive slowly to the north then make a turn west towards Texas. As you can see above that’s the current thinking of the National Hurricane Center. However, some forecast models show a landfall in eastern portions of the Gulf instead. That means Tropical Storm Debby will have to be watched closely. If it does in fact head towards Texas, it wouldn’t make it there until the end of this next week. Wherever it makes landfall it will bring some very beneficial rainfall. Here’s a look at this week’s drought status below. As you can see, much of southern Texas is under some form of a drought, which makes Debby good news for them provided she doesn't get too strong. In contrast, the drought is extreme to exceptional in Georgia, which means if Debby takes that turn west they’ll be missing out on all the rain.