A tropical depression has formed in the southern Gulf of Mexico, near the Yucatan Peninsula, and will likely grow into Tropical Storm Cristobal by Tuesday, marking the fastest start to the Atlantic hurricane season since 1851.
The storm, with winds of 30 miles per hour, needs to strengthen before it gets a name, but because the threat is high, Mexico has issued a tropical storm warning for the coastline, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
A storm gets a name when its winds reach tropical storm strength of 39 mph.”The depression is expected to bring heavy rainfall to portions of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which could cause life-threatening flash flooding and mudslide,” Daniel Brown, a senior hurricane specialist at the center, wrote in a forecast analysis.
Storms in the Gulf of Mexico are closely watched because offshore platforms account for 16 percent of U.S. crude oil production and 2.4 percent of natural gas production, according to the Energy Department. More than 45 percent of U.S. refining capacity and 51 percent of gas processing capacity is located along the Gulf coast. Even a weak system can force evacuations and temporary shut downs.
The system is currently in the Bay of Campeche, where Mexico’s Petroleos Mexicanos also has offshore platforms.
The Atlantic has already produced two storms even though the official start of the hurricane season was Monday. If the depression becomes Tropical Storm Cristobal Tuesday, it would break the record set in 2016 when Tropical Storm Colin formed on June 5, Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher with Colorado State University, said in a tweet.
Meteorologists believe Cristobal will get caught in a larger pattern that will cause it to circle the Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico, just north of the Yucatan Peninsula, said Paul Walker, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. It probably won’t move into the open Gulf until this weekend.
Walker said it will take a few days to gauge how much a threat it will be to those fields.
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