The tropics are heating up.
Stormy weather moving into the Gulf of Mexico threatened to bring heavy rains to Florida and much of the Southeast in coming days, and the hurricane season's fifth tropical storm, Erin, formed in the east Atlantic Ocean.
Forecasters predicted a tropical system building in the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Thursday would bring most of the Tampa Bay area a strong chance of thunderstorms through the weekend.
Conditions were favorable for the system to develop into a tropical storm within five days as it moves into the gulf, according to National Hurricane Center forecasters.
"All the computer models show that it's staying away from Florida," said Juli Marquez, a meteorologist with Bay News 9. "The only impact we'll have is added moisture … we'll have higher chances of rain over the next few days, but that's it."
The system was moving west-northwest at 10 mph and was forecast to reach the Yucatan Peninsula later Thursday. The path remained uncertain. Some computer models showed it heading northwest, while others moved it north into the central Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Erin formed early Thursday in the east Atlantic.
"Erin will not be near any land this weekend, so there should be no impact," Marquez said. "It could strengthen, but the bottom line is that this isn't something to worry about right now."
The storm is southwest of the Cape Verde islands off the African coast, headed west-northwest at about 16 mph with winds of about 40 mph.
Its general motion was expected to continue over the next two days with some decrease in forward speed.