Tropical Storm Colin formed in the southern Gulf of Mexico on Sunday evening, the earliest we’ve ever recorded a third named storm in the Atlantic Ocean. The system is forecast to gain speed as it heads toward western Florida over the next 24 hours, coming ashore about midway between Tampa and Tallahassee on Monday evening as a rainy, windy mess. Even though Colin will “only” be a tropical storm when it makes landfall, that’s the wrong way to look at this storm—its rain, wind, and tornadoes are dangerous no matter its status.
The National Hurricane Center’s 11:00 PM Eastern advisory noted a disheveled Tropical Storm Colin northwest of the tip of Cuba, gradually beginning to accelerate toward Florida’s west coast. The storm will continue to pick up speed as it draws closer to the United States tonight and during the day on Monday. Conditions should go downhill in a hurry as it gets closer to land.
1) Don’t focus on its name.
Don’t get hung up on the fact that Colin is “just” a tropical storm. The only distinction between the terms tropical depression, tropical storm, and hurricane is the maximum sustained winds in the strongest part of the storm. A tropical storm could produce four feet of rain, while a minor hurricane could blow through without much of an issue. The winds in Colin will be an issue, especially in areas where trees and power/telephone poles are weakened by saturated soil, but the biggest threats will be heavy rain, tornadoes, rough waves, and rip currents. These are always big hazards with any landfalling system. Stay out of the ocean, away from big trees, and out of low-lying areas, and you should make it through just fine.
2) Get ready for lots of rain.
The biggest threat with Tropical Storm Colin is heavy rain. It’s a good thing this storm is expected to pick up speed ahead of a cold front in the coming days—its swift forward speed will cut down on the amount of rain expected to fall over Florida and the southeastern United States, but much of the Sunshine State and southeastern coast can expect several inches of rain through Tuesday.