Just one week after a powerful Hurricane Blanca stared down Cabo San Lucas with the steely gaze of its eye, a burgeoning tropical system in the eastern Pacific could threaten another major tourist destination: Acapulco, Mexico. A newly-developed tropical depression is expected to become a hurricane as it comes dangerously close to the city this weekend.

Early this evening, the National Hurricane Center declared a swirling mass of clouds off the southern Mexico coast Tropical Depression Three-E, a system with 35 MPH winds centered about 300 miles southeast of Acapulco. Tropical depressions are numbered in chronological order, and the “E” stands for “Eastern Pacific,” differentiating it from tropical depressions that form in the Atlantic. Once the system becomes a tropical storm, which is likely later tonight or early tomorrow morning, it will be named Carlos.

The storm is extremely healthy looking on satellite imagery; this tropical depression looks healthier than some hurricanes, with the swirling and banding you’d expect to see in a much more developed tropical systems.

Since the storm has the potential to threaten millions of people—thousands of whom are tourists from other countries—the exact track of the storm is key in how great its impacts will be to both land and humanity. Nothing comes easy, and this forecast appears to follow that trend—that nasty left-hand turn in Future Carlos’ track is key in determining the storm’s impacts.

A ridge of high pressure is sitting to the north of the system, and the strength and placement of the ridge will determine if, when, and how much the storm will turn towards the west/northwest. As noted in the National Hurricane Center’s forecast discussion, some of the models (including the Euro) turn Future Carlos to the west earlier, minimizing impacts to land, while the GFS tends to bring Future Carlos almost to landfall while it parallels the coast.


Don’t just focus on the track of the eye itself—the winds, rain, and other impacts often extend hundreds of miles away from the center of the storm. In fact, if that initial NHC forecast verifies, the center’s track would put the right-front quadrant of the eyewall (the nasty part) very near or right over Acapulco.

If it comes close enough to affect land, the greatest impacts will be heavy rain, flash flooding, and mudslides, with high surf and rip currents coming in a close second. Even if the storm stays far enough away from land that it’s barely a nuisance, the threat for rip currents is an ever-present danger with offshore storms.

Since the storm is still a couple of days away from any major impacts on land, it would be wise for you to monitor the forecasts in the coming days and prepare for changes in your travel plans if you’re heading south (or already there and coming back home) over the next week or so. Pay attention to forecasts and listen to local authorities if they give the order to evacuate or take other actions to keep you safe.

The National Hurricane Center issues forecasts (or “advisories”) every six hours, so the next advisory will go up at 11:00 PM EDT (8:00 PM PDT) this evening. Once the storm comes close enough to land, they’ll start issuing advisories and updates every three hours.

[Image: author]

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