Ida, the ninth tropical storm of the 2009 hurricane season, formed Wednesday afternoon off the coast of Central America, weather officials said.
The track of the storm is highly uncertain, but some computer models indicate it could enter the Gulf of Mexico by next week.
Ida, moving west-northwest at 7 mph, was expected to make landfall in Nicaragua overnight. The government of that country issued a hurricane watch for the east coast Wednesday evening.
Maximum sustained winds were about 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
"Right now, it's strengthening," said Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker. "It will be over Central America or near Central America for the next few days."
The slow-moving storm could bring serious flooding to the mountains of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras.
It could quickly weaken if it moves over land because of its small size, according to Bay News 9.
If Ida stays out over Caribbean waters, it will be in an environment favorable for development, Bay News 9 said.