Tropical storms Laura, Marco expect to threaten Gulf Coast; Laura may impact FL Keys, Panhandle

Tropical storms Laura and Marco. Credit: National Hurricane Center.

The National Weather Service reports Saturday morning that Tropical Storm Laura is heading toward Puerto Rico and Marco, also a Tropical Storm, is in the northwestern Caribbean Sea.

“Both systems are forecast to threaten the Gulf Coast of the United States early to mid next week, with heavy rain possible as early as Monday,” the National Weather Service reported.

Laura is currently described as “disorganized” and Marco is strengthening, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that the president declare a “pre-landfall emergency” related to Tropical Storm Laura.

DeSantis wrote that based on on forecasts, storm Laura will pass very near or over the Florida Keys on Monday, Aug. 24, and “strengthen into a hurricane prior to making landfall in the Florida Panhandle” on Wednesday, Aug. 26.

These are the counties — half the counties in Florida —  connected to the emergency declaration: Bay, Broward, Calhoun, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Dixie, Escambia, Franklin, Glades, Gulf, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Hillsborough, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton and Washington.

DeSantis asked for financial assistance in the letter, in part because of COVID-19, which can complicate a storm in Florida.

“The overlay of this tropical event to the COVID-19 Pandemic will stress the capabilities of the state to respond fully in the tropical event without the addition of the requested federal assistance,” DeSantis wrote.

The costs are estimated at at least $1.4-billion, according to the letter.

The two storms, together, are considered an anomaly. Here’s a story in the Tallahassee Democrat that outlines this rare event, stating:

“In early September of the otherwise pleasant year of 1933, an exceptionally rare event occurred: nearly simultaneous landfalls of two separate tropical systems along the U.S. Gulf Coast. One was a major hurricane in south Texas, the other a strong tropical storm crossing the Florida Big Bend.

Now 2020, no slouch in the 1933 department, may replicate that feat with the added degree of difficulty of cramming two hurricanes into the Gulf.”

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.