The FOX Forecast Center is tracking a complex weather scenario off the Eastern Seaboard through the Memorial Day weekend, which could lead to a tropical disturbance developing over the western Atlantic that causes a holiday weekend washout for parts of the Carolinas and Southeast coast.
Computer forecast models show a cold front that has stalled near Florida this week could interact with spin developing in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The combination of both features means a period of heavy rain, rough surf and gusty winds will impact coastal regions of the Southeast. If the development of a low-pressure system occurs over a warm pool of water off the Southeast coast, it's within the realm of possibility that a weak tropical feature could spin up off the coast.
According to the FOX Forecast Center, both water temperatures and upper-level winds appear marginal for the potential of slow development. Ocean temperatures range from the lower to mid-70s to near 80 degrees – right on the edge of needed warmth – and upper-level winds don’t appear to be strong enough to completely prevent development.
No matter whether the coastal low is tropical, some Florida communities are in store for several inches of rainfall over the next few days.
The low-pressure system is then expected to curve westward into the Carolinas over the Memorial Day weekend. Periods of heavy rain, rough surf and gusty winds are likely along parts of the Southeast coast, dampening some holiday weekend beach plans.
Additionally, the combination of gusty winds and rough seas will likely lead to an enhanced threat from rip currents that could stretch from the Carolinas through the Sunshine State.
May has history of pre-season development
According to the NHC, only 3% of tropical cyclones form outside the official hurricane season, with May being the most popular month for out-of-season development.
A FOX Weather analysis found at least 90 tropical cyclones have formed out of season since the mid-1800s, with nearly half of those occurring in May.
The last tropical cyclone to form during May in the Atlantic Basin was Tropical Storm Ana in 2021. The brief storm developed east of Bermuda but quickly moved northeastward away from the archipelago and out to sea.
Four other storms have formed during May since 2018, but none strengthened beyond tropical storm status.
Pre-season tropical development doesn't usually amount to much
If a tropical cyclone does form off the Southeast coast, it would be the second system of 2023.
A recent reanalysis of a low-pressure system determined that a subtropical storm formed off the East Coast in January.
Development during the offseason is rare, and nearly all tropical disturbances before June 1 fail to develop due to a lack of sufficient ingredients.
Meteorologists tracked an area of disturbed weather in the Gulf of Mexico in April that failed to develop into a named entity.
The next tropical cyclone that gains enough organization to be classified as a tropical storm in the Atlantic Basin will earn the name Arlene.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.