Tropical Depression 28 forms, set to enter Gulf on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Zeta

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The system is forecast to be a tropical storm with a landfall Wednesday somewhere along the northern Gulf Coast.

NEW ORLEANS — Tropical Depression 28 formed Saturday afternoon in the northwest Caribbean Sea. It is forecast to become Tropical Storm Zeta on Sunday as it drifts very slowly northward. 

It is expected to move into the Gulf on Tuesday and could become a hurricane for a short time. It is then set to weaken at least some as it approaches the Gulf Coast due to cooler water temperatures and increased wind shear ahead of a cold front.

A landfall as a tropical storm is expected on Wednesday somewhere along the Gulf Coast, but there is still uncertainty in the long-range part of the forecast.

Steering for the system will first be weak, which is why it’s set to stay in the Caribbean through Monday. Then a ridge of high pressure will build briefly from the east to guide the system northwestward into the central Gulf. Then a trough of low pressure and strong cold front will swing in from the central US. This will take the system quickly to the north and eventually inland to the northeast.

What to expect in southeast Louisiana

It’s too early to say exactly what impacts might be for southeast Louisiana, because there are still unknowns. A lot will depend on the exact landfall location of the storm, plus how much it is able to organize.

At this point it looks like we may get some rain from it on Wednesday. Models show about 1-2 inches of rain for our area, but of course it’s still days away and that could change. If soon-to-be Zeta does make landfall around our area, we would also have coastal flooding and wind issues.

However, there are a few factors that will influence the eventual track. Another cold front is set to arrive late Wednesday – it could keep big impacts away from us depending on its timing. Also, it’s unclear just how strong the depression will eventually get. If it stays weak, it would be a messy system where most of the rain is displaced far east of the center.

A few things we have going for us is that this likely won’t be extremely intense at landfall. The current forecast is for a tropical storm. Also, it will be moving fast – it should accelerate over the northern Gulf due to a trough of low pressure driving the midweek cold front, so any tropical impacts wouldn’t hang around for long.

Also, it’s important to remember that the average error for a system’s location four days out is 160 miles – so if the center is over southeast Louisiana right now, it will likely shift east or west in the coming days (as we’ve seen most of the other six times we’ve been in a cone of uncertainty this year!).

For now, we have rain chances increasing Wednesday with the frontal passage set for early Thursday, then much cooler weather Friday and next weekend.

More updates will be coming.

VIDEO: Latest projected track, computer models

HURRICANE CENTER: Latest Tracks, Models & Radar – Click here.

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