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Tropical depression forms, could hit Gulf Coast as a hurricane

A tropical depression formed in the southern Caribbean Wednesday, with another Florida hurricane possible by the weekend.

In their latest advisory, National Hurricane Center forecasters said the storm will move over warm waters and encounter light wind shear, allowing quick intensification. It’s possible sustained winds could reach 80 mph by Saturday, marking it a weak Category 1 storm as it approaches the U.S. coast.

Map of Tropical Depression 16. (Tribune News Service 2017)

At 11 a.m. EDT, the depression was located 25 miles south-southwest of San Andres Island off the coast of Nicaragua with sustained winds of 35 mph, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.

If it continues to intensify to a tropical storm and hurricane, it will be named Nate. A hurricane hunter plane is scheduled to investigate the storm later Wednesday.

It’s too soon to say what impacts the storm may have on the U.S. coast, but the latest computer models take it north across the Gulf, with a landfall somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and Louisiana. The hurricane center track takes the storm’s center across the Panhandle, however, forecasts so soon in advance can have errors amounting to hundreds of miles.

While the timing and magnitude of the storm remain unclear, forecasters said the Florida Panhandle and Gulf Coast to Louisiana should keep watch for the next several days. The storm could bring high winds, storm surge and heavy rain.

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for parts of Nicaragua and Honduras.

Squally weather blanketing South Florida Wednesday is not related to the storm, but part of another system over west Cuba and the Florida straits. Strong wind shear is expected to keep that system disorganized, which is still expected to generate heavy rain and gusty wind in Florida and the Bahamas.

Wednesday’s depression becomes the 16th cyclone in a record-breaking season that hit feverish intensity over the last two months with five named storms since Aug. 30. Three lethal storms — Harvey, Irma and Maria — formed in less than 30 days.

In September, the highest amount of hurricane energy on record occurred, along with the most number of days with a major hurricane, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach.

Earlier in the season, forecasters upped their prediction for the number of storms to between 14 and 19, with two to five major hurricanes. The season ends Nov. 30.


© 2017 Miami Herald

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