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Tropical Storm Gonzalo nears the Caribbean as a second depression approaches Texas

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Watching Gonzalo and Hanna; faith-based disaster relief; and Douglas tracks to Hawaii

As we said last week: things didn't stay quiet for long.

Just seven days since the seas were silent, the Atlantic basin is a flurry of activity this morning, with the National Hurricane Center closely tracking two areas of interest. Neither presents a threat to South Carolina.

First, Tropical Depression Eight could easily become Hanna in the next 48 hours or so as it approaches the Texas Gulf coast. This messy system is struggling to coalesce into the tight spiral inherent in stronger cyclones. But there's plenty of time (and warm water) for future-Hanna to strengthen on its way to the Lone Star State.

The Hurricane Center projects the system at tropical storm strength when it makes landfall somewhere near Corpus Christi on Saturday, but watches have been issued for most of Texas' coast, from Galveston south to Padre Island. This slow-moving storm brings rainfall flooding as the major concern.

Second, Tropical Storm Gonzalo is just the latest in historically early storms as it chugs toward the Windward Islands. The earliest G-named storm had previously spun up on July 24.

If the Hurricane Center's predictions are right, Gonzalo could be this year's first full-fledged Atlantic hurricane, strengthening to Category 1 sometime today. The storm's intensification so far has been undershot by a few computer models, but there's good reason to think this storm won't get much stronger than that. A huge bubble of dry Saharan air (remember that?) to its north is sapping it of needed moisture.

There's quite a bit of uncertainty regarding how the system will fare in terms of intensity, and if it survives at all after blowing through the Windwards on Saturday. In part, it's because Gonzalo is a relatively small cyclone, and more sensitive to the dynamics around it.

The Hurricane Center is erring on the side of caution as models diverge, projecting the system to float south of Jamaica as a weaker tropical storm on Tuesday.

So for now, we at Hurricane Wire HQ are watching the basin closely and refining, as always, our preparedness plans.

We're not the only ones on alert, however. This week, our Faith & Values reporter Rickey Ciapha Dennis, Jr. has a piece on how Charleston's faith groups are preparing for the season as well. Give it a read.

— Chloe Johnson

What's brewing

Hurricane Wire is a pop-up newsletter during hurricane season that delivers anyone who lives on the East Coast all the information they need to know as storms brew in the Atlantic and beyond.

Conditions: Quite busy with warm oceans and two active systems. Neither are a concern for South Carolina.

Computer models: There's disagreement on the intensity forecasts for both Gonzalo and soon-to-be-Hanna. Gonzalo is the bigger question, and its strength depends in large part on how far north the storm strays into dry, Saharan air and whether some minor wind shear can knock this small cyclone apart.

Outlook: The Texas coast and Windward Islands should be making preparations in the next few days. What the future holds depends on Gonzalo's survival.

What we're talking about

  • With all the activity in the Atlantic, we haven't even gotten to the Pacific, where Hurricane Douglas is headed straight for Hawaii. The system could rapidly intensify along the way, though the Hurricane Center projects it will weaken again before reaching the archipelago. (Capital Weather Gang)
  • Hawaii has historically avoided most cyclones. But as Bob Henson noted on Twitter, the islands are increasingly vulnerable.
  • As Louisiana makes plans for its vanishing coast, fishing communities are at risk of disappearing. (NYT)

Warming climates in South Carolina

A few weeks ago, we ran a data visual illustrating the city of Charleston's gradually warming climate. This week we're taking a look at that same data for the Columbia metro region, and the outlook is similar: Columbia is heating up.

Blue stripes represent years cooler than the average annual temperature between 1971 and 2000. Red stripes represent years warmer than that baseline. The hue of each color shows how much cooler or warmer that year was, with darker shades representing more intense temperatures.

The data show Columbia trending about .3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer each decade, outpacing Charleston's rate of change over the same interval by .1 degrees Fahrenheit. For the last 5 years, Columbia has recorded annual temperatures at least 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average.

Data from NOAA. Inspired by Professor Ed Hawkins at the University of Reading and Graphic by Bryan Brussee.

Hurricanes in history

Hurricane wire Tropical storm cindy 2005 (copy)

High winds shredded grandstands and boxes at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 7, 2005. Storms from the remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy caused at least two deaths, along with high winds and heavy rain across much of western and northern Georgia. (File/AP)

Reach Chloe Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.

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