Tropical Storm Cindy Strengthens Over the Central Gulf of Mexico

Tropical Storm Cindy strengthened on Tuesday night as is moved slowly over the Central Gulf of Mexico.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday the center of Tropical Storm Cindy was located at latitude 26.4°N and longitude 91.0°W which put it about 305 miles (495 km) southeast of Galveston, Texas.  Cindy was moving toward the northwest at 7 m.p.h. (11 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 70 m.p.h. (110 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 997 mb.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the portion of the coast from San Luis Pass, Texas to the Alabama/Florida border including Metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.

Although Tropical Storm Cindy does not look very impressive on infrared satellite imagery, data from reconnaissance aircraft and surface observations from buoys and ships indicate that it has strengthened during the past few hours.  Tropical Storm Cindy displays the structure of a highly sheared tropical storm.  There are no thunderstorms near the center of circulation.  Most of the showers and thunderstorms are in bands well to the east and north of the center of circulation.  The circulation of Tropical Storm Cindy is large and winds to tropical storm force extend out about 275 miles (445 km) northeast of the center.

A combination of an upper level low to the northwest of Cindy and an upper level ridge to the east of it have generated enough upper level divergence to cause the surface pressure to decrease.  The lower pressure at the center created a bigger pressure difference with the subtropical high over the Atlantic Ocean and the stronger pressure gradient force accelerated the wind speed.  So, even though the upper level low produced enough vertical wind shear to prevent a classical process of tropical intensification in Tropical Storm Cindy, the larger scale weather features combined to produce a stronger, larger tropical storm.

Tropical Storm Cindy could intensify a little more if the large scale environment pumps out more mass and the surface pressure decreases further.  The tropical storm could also intensify if the upper low moves farther away from Cindy and the wind shear decreases.  It is unlikely that Tropical Storm Cindy will intensify into a hurricane, but there is a slight possibility that could occur before it makes landfall.

The subtropical high over the Atlantic Ocean is steering Tropical Storm Cindy slowly toward the northwest and that general motion is expected to continue for another 12 to 24 hours.  Cindy could gradually turn toward the north as it approaches the coast and the tropical storm will turn toward the northeast after it moves inland.  On its anticipated track the center of Tropical Storm Cindy could approach the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday night.

The large size of the circulation of Tropical Storm Cindy and its slow motion mean that locally heavy rain and flooding are the greater risks.  There is also the potential for rainbands to spin up tornadoes when they move onto the coast.  Southerly winds driving water toward the coast are already causing a storm surge along parts of the coast of Louisiana.  A storm surge of 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) may be possible where the strongest winds strike the coast.