Tropical storm may affect area

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 10, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-The Atlantic Hurricane season began June 1 and almost on cue, the first tropical storm of the year has formed.

Forecasters believe the disturbed weather in the Caribbean Sea could make its way into the Gulf of Mexico and develop into the first tropical storm of the season. Earlier reports said the storm could strike sometime Saturday just west of the Alabama Mississippi state line.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Stefkovich, of Birmingham, said the storm could make landfall as early as Friday, though the path was expected to be the same.

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“That is the latest prediction,” Stefkovich said. “They are calling for it to make landfall probably over Friday night or early Saturday morning.”

The main threats from the storm are expected to be heavy rains, flooding and isolated tornadoes. Stefkovich said winds should reach 30 to 35 mph, but could come in higher gusts.

Long-range forecasts say the storm could move inland near Pascagoula and move northward along the Alabama border, which would include many areas of the Black Belt. The storms strength could carry it as far North as Kentucky. Stefkovich said the predicted route of the storm seemed to be accurate for now.

“Marengo County, Demopolis included, should see the effects of this Friday night,” Stefkovich said. “At this point we are looking at widespread storms with three to five inches of rain. Of course, a tropical storm means there will be thunder involved so there could be heavier rains. Right now, we are looking at about three to five inches.”

Stefkovich said there was always a possibility the storm could take an eastern track Marengo County could see the rain totals drop significantly.

If sustained winds of the system reach 39 mph, the storm would qualify as a tropical storm and be named Arlene.

One of the major dangers in an area such as Demopolis where there is a great deal of water can be flooding. Stefkovich announced a new program the National Weather Service has launched called “Turn Around Don’t Drown.” Stefkovich said the aim of the program was to encourage drivers not to attempt to pass through standing water on roadways.

“This is a new program and we would like to ask people to avoid flooded roads and not try to pass through them,” Stefkovich said. “Automobiles generally do not float and attempting to pass through flooded roads. The best way to avoid an accident in that situation is to avoid the roads completely.”

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June 1 until Nov. 30. Peak activity during the season is usually from August until September. The 2005 season is expected to be very busy. NOAA’s 2005 Atlantic hurricane season outlook indicates a 70 percent chance of an above-normal hurricane season, a 20 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC), Hurricane Research Division (HRD), and National Hurricane Center (NHC) produce this outlook.

The outlook calls for 12 to15 tropical storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, and three to five of these becoming major hurricanes.