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Tropical Storm Isaias likely to form today as track moves toward Gulf

The 11 a.m. latest advisory shows the storm shifting slightly west, arriving in Tampa Bay on Sunday. Still, uncertainty remains high.

The system now known as Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine is expected to become Tropical Storm Isaias today and forecasters have nudged the forecast track to the west, putting the center of the storm in the Gulf of Mexico as it approaches the Tampa Bay region this weekend.

The system remained a trough of low pressure with a weak center of circulation as of the National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. advisory, but forecasters still expect Isaias to form later today or tonight. The advisory shifted the storm’s track slightly to the west, with its center skirting the Gulf coast and reaching the Tampa Bay region on Sunday.

But forecasters continue to emphasize that there is a high degree of uncertainty about the storm track and intensity — whether it will stay a tropical storm or gain hurricane strength — because a true center has yet to form. The entire Florida peninsula remains under the cone of uncertainty.

The system was moving “briskly” at 23 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. It’s forecast to continue in a general west-northwest direction just south of the Leeward Islands today, near or over Hispaniola on Thursday and near eastern Cuba Thursday night and Friday. By midday Wednesday, portions of the Leeward Islands were already getting lashed with heavy rain and wind.

Forecasters say the system could intensify before reaching Hispaniola but will likely weaken while it interacts with land. After that, its close proximity to Cuba and an increase in wind shear will likely keep the system from strengthening significantly, the advisory says.

“Interests in Hispaniola, the Bahamas, Cuba, and Florida should continue to monitor forecasts as changes to both the track and intensity are likely,” the advisory says.

Forecasters say the system will produce heavy rains and potentially life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides across the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for these areas.

Tropical storm watches in effect for the southeastern Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine/Tropical Storm Isaias is a reminder that we are in the midst of a hyper-active Atlantic hurricane season and the peak is approaching. It’s never too late to get ready for this or any other storm that will actually threaten the bay area.

Times staff writer Josh Fiallo contributed to this report.

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2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

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NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

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