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1st named storm of season brewing south of Mexico

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 5/27/2022 Renee Duff

A mass of clouds, showers and thunderstorms remained under the close scrutiny of AccuWeather meteorologists as it swirled over the waters south of Mexico at the end of the week. Although the brewing tropical threat remained disorganized, forecasters expect the zone of disturbed weather to spawn the first named storm of the season over the weekend before eyeing Mexico with flooding downpours.

The 2022 East Pacific hurricane season began less than two weeks ago on May 15, and forecasters say it's only a matter of time before the year's first tropical depression or storm forms.

Satellite imagery on Friday depicted several large clusters of showers and thunderstorms broadly circulating over the waters south of Mexico, indicative of a large area of low pressure. The showers and thunderstorms had not yet developed a consolidated counterclockwise spin which would indicate the early stages of tropical development.

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AccuWeather's Enhanced RealVue™ Satellite image showed showers and thunderstorms gathering just south of the Mexico coast and west of Guatemala and El Salvador over the East Pacific basin Friday, May 27, 2022. (AccuWeather)

"The broad low south of the Gulf of Tehuantepec appears poised to develop into the first tropical depression or storm of the year in the next 24 to 48 hours as it is located in a zone of fairly light wind shear and warm ocean waters," Dan Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather who specializes in tropical weather forecasting, said Friday morning.

Sea-surface temperatures in the area are more than sufficient for tropical development, and as of Friday, the ocean water in this part of the Pacific Ocean was around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). At a minimum, a sea-surface temperature of 79-80 F (26-27 C) is needed for the formation and maintenance of tropical systems.

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While strong wind shear is inhibiting tropical development across the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, lighter wind shear to the south of Mexico across the eastern Pacific Ocean will support more conducive conditions for tropical development into the end of the month.

The first name on the list for the 2022 eastern Pacific hurricane season is Agatha. A system is named when it becomes a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds at the center of its circulation of 39 mph or greater.

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Forecasters say the system could remain far enough away from the immediate coast over the warm waters of the Eastern Pacific for the system to even make a run at reaching hurricane status with maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph (119 km/h).

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A landfalling tropical storm or hurricane would bring a heightened risk of strong winds disrupting power and causing damage to buildings along the coast close to where the storm ultimately moves onshore.

These strong winds can also kick up dangerous surf along the entire southern coast of Mexico, making it dangerous for swimmers to enter the water and for boaters to venture offshore.

Heavy rain is likely to pour down from Acapulco to Oaxaca and Tehuacán, Mexico, from late Sunday into Tuesday, posing a significant risk to life and property.

"The heaviest rain will fall across the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, causing flash flooding mudslides and road closures," Pydynowski said. These dangers will be heightened in areas of mountainous terrain where steep slopes can give way once the ground becomes extremely saturated.

The exact track of the storm will ultimately determine which areas receive the highest rainfall amounts, and the latest indications point toward the hardest-hit areas receiving in excess of 12 inches (305 mm) of rain.

Regardless of the final intensity of the storm, flash flooding and mudslides are likely as downpours fueled by tropical moisture drench the region.

Forecasters say there is a low but non-zero chance that the brewing storm meanders over the eastern Pacific Ocean and fails to ever reach land, due to light steering winds.

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For the 2022 East Pacific tropical season, AccuWeather forecasters are predicting a normal to above-normal hurricane season. Fifteen to 19 named storms are expected to form with the possibility of six to eight of them reaching hurricane force. The normal count of named storms in the basin is about 15 storms, with eight achieving hurricane status.

AccuWeather meteorologists will be closely monitoring the leftover energy from this brewing tropical storm as it crosses Mexico and enters the Bay of Campeche during the first days of June. Here, it could redevelop into the Atlantic basin's first named storm.

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