A tropical depression off the coast of Africa developed into the season's fourth tropical storm Wednesday morning, a likely harbinger of more storms, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tropical Storm Dorian was located about 400 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands and had maximum sustained winds of about 50 mph at midday, the hurricane center reported.
The storm was moving west-northwest toward the Caribbean Sea at roughly 21 mph.
Through Friday, Dorian will be moving over cooler waters, which may keep the storm from strengthening significantly, said Bay News 9 Meteorologist Mike Clay. If it reaches the Tampa Bay area, warmer waters could give it more power, he said. But as of Wednesday, forecasters could see no imminent local effects.
For the next week or so, Dorian is expected to stay south of an area of high pressure in the southern and eastern Atlantic Ocean, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.
Forecasters will have plenty of time to observe changes in its strength and direction.
"It could possibly be near the islands of the Caribbean early next week," Marquez said.
Regardless of path, the storm is a sign of things to come as hurricane season approaches its peak.
Dorian emerged off the west coast of Africa near Cape Verde, an area known as an incubator for tropical systems.
About 80 tropical waves – low-pressure systems that generate heavy winds and rainfall – come off that coast in an average season, said hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.
The peak time for Cape Verde storms is late-July to mid-September, when a new tropical wave might develop every three to four days, according to Feltgen.
In any given year, he said, about five of these tropical systems develop into hurricanes.