For the first time in what seems like a while, the Houston/Galveston area is staring down the barrel of a gun named Cindy. The National Weather Service upgraded Monday's Gulf disturbance to its third named storm of the year on Tuesday. It's still a very broad system, but it is beginning to acquire a closed circulation and forecasts are calling for it to remain at tropical storm strength right up until landfall sometime in the early morning hours Thursday.
The location of landfall in this instance is of particular importance since much of the rainfall associated with Cindy is hundreds of miles east of the storm's center. Most of the forecast models are calling for a track north-northwest toward the upper Texas coastline with a landfall somewhere between Matagorda Bay and the Texas-Louisiana border. Galveston (well, High Island anyway) is smack dab in the middle of that "cone of uncertainty."
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Because Cindy has intensified somewhat, that does change the outlook for anyone directly in the crosshairs. On Monday, forecasters thought anyone directly in the path of the storm would get some rain but probably not any substantive amounts, and there wasn't expected to be a lot of wind accompanying the system. As Cindy has strengthened, that has changed a bit.
So, what should we expect from Cindy? Of course, that depends. If the storm continues its track with a landfall near Galveston Island or to our west, expect stormy conditions with perhaps six inches of rain (more in isolated areas) and a pretty blustery day on Thursday with wind gusts reaching 50 or 60 mph. The closer you are to the coast, the more of a threat the wind will be.
If Cindy wobbles east, even just 100 miles, it will substantially cut down on both rain and wind for our area. Fortunately, it would take a serious move down the Texas coast for us to see the kind of downpours expected for Louisiana, Alabama and even Mississippi, which are all expected to see upwards of two dozen inches of precipitation. Right now, rain forecasts are calling for somewhere between three and six inches for the Houston area based on the current projected forecast track.
For now, the main thing is be safe on the roads and keep an eye on the forecast. It isn't like we haven't seen our share of serious storms over the past few years, and all of those have had nothing to do with the tropics. And the good news is that by the end of the day on Thursday, skies will begin to clear as Cindy moves out of the area.