The National Hurricane Center reconnaissance plane found winds strong enough in Invest 90 to declare it the fourth
tropical depression tropical storm of the 2011 hurricane season -- their next full report is at 6 p.m. As we mentioned in our most recent post, most forecasts continue to call for moderate strengthening as it traverses the Gulf of Mexico and eventually makes landfall somewhere along the coast of Texas.
At this point, the consensus is that Don will not likely strengthen beyond tropical storm strength. Most forecast models are predicting it will make landfall within about 48 hours as a moderate tropical storm.
Now the big question is where. Since this morning, new forecast models have come into better agreement on a landfall somewhere between Freeport and Port Lavaca, but areas as far east as the Texas/Louisiana border and as far south as Brownsville will likely be in the "cone of uncertainty" through tomorrow. The key meteorological feature is a high pressure ridge that has been killing us with heat for the past week. As it moves off to the east, our storm will speed up and curve around the high pressure's outer perimeter. The further high pressure moves to the east, the greater the turn to the northwest.
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What this means for the Houston area is highly dependent upon where the storm makes landfall. A landfall near Freeport would certainly drench our city with at least a couple inches of rain, probably more. This is going to be a fairly fast-moving storm, so there should not be a worry about an Allison repeat.
Of course, if it stays to the south near Port Lavaca or even Corpus Christi, we may see very little rain at all.
Because Don is likely only 48 hours from landfall, the degree of certainty in terms of its ultimate destination will increase dramatically throughout tonight and into tomorrow morning. While it is unlikely this storm blows up into a large hurricane -- the waters of the Gulf just aren't warm enough at the moment to indicate rapid intensification is probable -- it bears watching and, let's be honest, we could use the rain.