Gulf storm could become tropical storm Barry as soon as Thursday, forecasters say

Coastal Louisiana and maybe Texas could see the second named storm of the season — Barry — as soon as Saturday, the National Hurricane Center predicts.

The latest models show that the disturbance over Georgia from earlier this week has reached the Gulf of Mexico, where the hurricane center gives it a 100 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours as of 5 p.m. When the potential tropical cyclone reaches 40 miles per hour — it’s currently chugging along at 30 mph — it’ll officially be named Barry.

That may happen Thursday, with the storm possibly upgrading to a tropical system later the same day, said NHC Senior Hurricane Specialist Stacy Stewart. He said the storm could make landfall as Category 1 or stronger sometime Saturday.

Tropical storm and storm surge watches are in effect for parts of the eastern Louisiana coast.

The above average temperatures of the Gulf are strengthening the potential system. The Gulf is a toasty 86 to 90 degrees, about 3 degrees higher than normal. Hot water puts more moisture in the air, which fuels hurricane formation.

“That’s just like throwing gasoline on a fire,” Stewart said.

An Air Force plane is scouting out the storm Wednesday afternoon, he said. A NOAA aircraft will follow in the evening .

“We know it’s broad but sometimes there’s some specifics in the detail there we can’t obtain from satellite images,” he said.

Alex Harris covers climate change for the Miami Herald, including how South Florida communities are adapting to the warming world. She attended the University of Florida.