Hurricane forecasters continue to monitor a strong tropical wave near Hispaniola that shows signs of developing into the first named storm to threaten Florida this season.
The wave is moving west-northwest at about 10 mph and is heading into an environment favorable for strengthening, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecasters on Wednesday gave the system a 50 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours. If that happens, it would be named Bonnie.
Forecasters have closely tracked the system for the past two days. It already is causing heavy rainfall and wind gusts from the north Leeward Islands to Hispaniola.
Most computer models continue to move the system in a west-northwesterly direction over the next several days, to the Bahamas, Cuba and Florida. It's hard to say yet what that means for Tampa Bay.
"It's too soon to say exactly the effects because nothing has developed yet," said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez. "At the very least, expect better rain chances Friday and Saturday."
This makes the system the first of the year projected to cross Florida.
"It's not expected to be a major windmaker," said Ernie Jillson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Jillson, however, said it would be a good time to review emergency plans.
Even if the wave does not develop, it's expected to produce heavy rainfall and gusty winds over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and will likely affect the Dominican Republic, Haiti, eastern Cuba, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Bahamas.
There is a potential for life-threatening flash floods and mud slides in those areas, according to the National Hurricane Center.