After forming in the eastern Gulf of Mexico over the past 48 hours, Tropical Storm Debby is going nowhere fast. Parked west of Tampa and south of Panama City, she seems to be teasing the National Hurricane Center with her uncertain intentions.
The question is whether a weak cold front dropping through the Southeast will pick up the storm and shunt it northeastward, across Florida, or whether Debby will drift westward, gathering strength over the warm waters of the Gulf before impacting Texas. Other computer models suggest that the storm might exit to the north, crossing Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi.
Currently raking the western edge of Florida with heavy rains and high surf, Debby is a lopsided Tropical Storm, its center of circulation west of the rain bands. This reflects the presence of upper level winds, crossing the storm from southwest to northeast and keeping the thunderstorms along its eastern and northern rim. Should the storm remain in the Gulf and drift westward, it may escape this wind shear, allowing a closed system to develop (with thunderstorm bands circling the center of low pressure). Such architecture is essential to the formation of hurricanes and it remains possible that this tropical storm could become Hurricane Debby in the western Gulf. Time will tell but, for now, she has the forecasters baffled.