Tropical Depression Nine formed early Friday morning in the central Caribbean Sea and is likely to become the next tropical storm, named Hermine, the National Hurricane Center reported.
This system has the attention of meteorologists as weather forecast models in both America and Europe show it developing into a hurricane and entering the Gulf of Mexico early next week.
Nine had sustained winds of 35 mph about 615 miles east-southeast of Jamaica, gusting to 13 mph west-northwest.
“Only slow intensification is expected into the next day or so, followed by more significant intensification over the weekend and into early next week,” the hurricane center said.
In the short term, Nine is expected to bring heavy rains to Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, northern Venezuela, and northern Columbia, which could cause flooding and mudslides across the islands.
The system is then expected to gain strength, intensifying into a tropical storm as it moves toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Tropical storm watches and warnings may be issued for these locations for the next 24 hours.
Total predicted precipitation:
- Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao: Additional 1 to 2 inches
- Northern Venezuela: between 2 and 5 centimeters
- Northern Columbia: 3 to 6 inches
- Jamaica: 4 to 8 inches with a local maximum of 12 inches
- Cayman Islands: 4 to 8 inches
- Southern Haiti and Southern Dominican Republic: 2 to 4 inches with a local maximum of 6 inches
After passing through the Caribbean this weekend, the system is expected to track as a hurricane near or over western Cuba and enter the Gulf of Mexico early next week.
“The model guidance is pretty consistent early on, but by 48 hours it starts to get more widespread,” the hurricane center said. “There is still a lot of uncertainty in the track forecast within 4-5 days.”
Both major weather forecast models, American and European, show the system continuing into the Gulf of Mexico early next week; however, the American one shows the western runway and the European one the eastern one.
On Friday morning, the European model showed Tuesday’s storm over the Florida Keys, affecting much of southern Florida. The American model storm affected much of Florida’s west-central coast on Wednesday.
The hurricane center’s official forecast splits the gap between weather forecast models, showing the storm approaching mainland Florida late Tuesday night or early Wednesday as a powerful Category 2 hurricane.
Regardless of where the storm continues, conditions in the Gulf are right for the system to strengthen, and it will do so very quickly, hurricane center spokeswoman Maria Torres told CNN.
It has been a slow to above average hurricane season. Only one storm has made landfall in a US territory, and no hurricanes have made landfall or threatened the contiguous United States.
Now, a week after the peak of hurricane season, the tropics appear to have reawakened, and forecasters worry that people have let their guard down.
“After a slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season has picked up speed,” tweeted Phil Klotzbach, a researcher at Colorado State University.
“People tend to let their guard down and think, oh yeah, we’re out of the woods,” Torres said. “But, in truth, the season continues. We are still in September; we still have October left. Everything that arises in the Atlantic or the Caribbean is something that we have to follow very closely.’
The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.
However, if you live in the Caribbean, Florida and other Gulf Coast states, keep an eye out for updated forecasts this weekend through early next week.