Tropical Storm Laura is in the Atlantic while Tropical Depression 14, which should become Marco soon, is in the Caribbean Sea. Both are forecast to reach hurricane strength as they move through the warm waters of the Gulf.
Has this happened before?
While it is extremely rare to have two storms in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time, it has happened before. According to Dr. Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist with Colorado State University, two tropical systems made landfall along the Gulf around the same time back in September 1933.
This would, however, be the first time two hurricanes were in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously.
Can the two storms merge?
While two storms can technically interact – in what’s known as the Fujiwhara effect – it’s not likely to happen in this situation.
The Fujiwhara effect happens when two tropical systems come close together and begin to rotate around one another.
The latest track from the National Hurricane Center shows Laura moving through the Gulf slower than previously expected. Tropical Depression 14 is forecast to impact land before Laura even reaches the coast.
In addition, the strength of both systems is forecast to stay on the weaker side.
“Two systems don’t do very well surviving, especially stronger systems,” WFLA Chief Meteorologist Steve Jerve explained. “These are relatively weak and forecast to remain not at the high end.”
No, there will not be a ‘superstorm’
Even when the Fujiwhara effect happens, there is no “superstorm” that will merge from the two systems. What can happen if storms interact too much is the stronger storm can absorb the weaker storm.
They don’t become a “superstorm” because the two centers of the system are disrupted during the process when one is absorbed. It would take time for the system to recover, and there wouldn’t be that much time before landfall.
“Usually when you have two systems that get very close to each other and they interact, one will weaken the other one,” KLRT Chief Meteorologist Jeff Baskin added. “There’s outflow associated with a tropical system that creates upper winds and upper winds are hostile for tropical systems. So a lot of times if you have a stronger, bigger one and a weaker one, the bigger one will end up destroying the weaker one.”