The third tropical depression of the 2010 hurricane season has formed in the southeast Bahamas, the National Hurricane Center says.
The system is expected to bring scattered thundershowers to the Tampa Bay area this weekend as it takes a west-northwestly course toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the Miami area and much of South Florida.
The storm system is being sheared by high-level westerly winds but still has sustained winds of 35 mph, just shy of tropical storm strength, 39 mph. It would be named Bonnie if it develops into a tropical storm.
Hurricane officials said in an 11 p.m. advisory that none of the computer models used to project tropical storms show the depression intensifying over the next several hours, though it now has a clear surface circulation.
The system was bringing rain and thunderstorms to the southeast Bahamas early Thursday, moving west-northwest at 10 to 15 knots. The wave became more organized as surface pressures dropped and showers increased overnight.
All the activity brings Tampa Bay's weekend rain chances to about 50 percent each day, said Juli Marquez, Bay News 9 meteorologist. It also might feel breezier.
"Today really looks to be the last day of the very hot, mainly dry conditions," she said.
Computer models show the wave moving toward Cuba and extreme South Florida on Friday before hitting the gulf this weekend. Southeast Florida could see rain and gusty winds as early as Thursday night, she said.
A NOAA Hurricane Hunter flight was scheduled to investigate the wave Thursday afternoon.
Coast Guard officials have warned that oil spill cleanup efforts could be stalled if the system developed into a tropical storm headed for Louisiana.
"Any operations out there will have to be suspended," said Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral overseeing the cleanup.
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