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Consensus building that tropical system will head towards Gulf

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It’s still too soon to say with any kind of certainty that a tropical storm or hurricane will be in the Gulf of Mexico next week.

But more forecasters are admitting that it is a real possibility.

What happens if and when it gets into the Gulf is very much a question mark, but forecasters warned those across the Gulf Coast and Florida to watch it closely and make sure they have all their hurricane supplies stocked and ready to go. (Here are some tips.)

Just in case.

The tropical wave in the eastern Caribbean being watched by many along the Gulf Coast hasn’t changed much today.

It’s headed westward but hasn’t become more organized.

The National Hurricane Center said upper-level winds were keeping the disturbance, Invest 98L, from getting its act together.

But that could change in a day or two as those winds subside, and forecasters still expect a tropical depression to form in the next few days. The five-day probability of that happening was held at 90 percent as of Thursday morning.

The National Weather Service offices all across the Gulf Coast were monitoring the wave closely on Thursday.

Here’s what some of those forecasters were thinking:

* The weather service in Mobile said forecasters do expect the system to move towards the Gulf and enter the Gulf by the early to middle part of next week.

* The weather service in Tallahassee, Fla., offered some sound advice, saying: “This system does bear monitoring as a myriad of models suggest a tropical cyclone in the northwest Caribbean late this weekend or early next week. Uncertainty, however, remains quite large, and everyone is urged to use extreme caution when looking at model guidance, especially deterministic output. Large variability from run to run will likely continue until we have a consolidated system and the upper-level pattern is resolved.”

* The weather service in New Orleans echoed this: “Even the fastest guidance solutions keep it in the Caribbean through Monday night…. The GFS and ECMWF (computer model) solutions are significantly different than each other, among others, so focusing on a particular deterministic solution right now would not be advisable.”

* The weather service in Lake Charles, La., added this: “Consensus of guidance has this system moving west-northwest over the Caribbean Sea over the weekend, reaching the northwest Caribbean Sea by Monday, then possibly into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday , and if you look at the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential and Ocean Heat Content in the northwest Caribbean, it is of concern that a rather potent tropical cyclone could be entering the Gulf of Mexico.”

But, the Lake Charles forecasters continued: “However, at this time, there is no consensus forming from the reliable global models and ensembles, with a wide range of scenarios with some showing a system getting caught up in the upper level trough and recurving quickly up into the eastern Gulf. Others, have the trough moving out leaving the system behind and marching slowly to the northwest into the central and even western Gulf of Mexico as weak steering currents develop in the wake of the trough.”

All this goes to say that there are still a range of possible outcomes on the table and a lot can change.

Forecasters will be able to get a better fix on the track once 98L develops a defined center of circulation, which could happen in the next day or two.

The next update on this system from the hurricane center will come Thursday afternoon.

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