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Tropical Storm Sally forms near Florida, expected to strengthen in Gulf of Mexico

The storm doesn’t pose a threat to Tampa Bay. Meanwhile Hurricane Paulette has formed and threatens Bermuda.

Tropical Storm Sally formed Saturday and is expected to continue strengthening as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico and away from Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It could become a Category 1 hurricane late Monday as it approaches the Gulf Coast.

Late Saturday, Tropical Storm Paulette became Hurricane Paulette and is on a course to roll over Bermuda on Monday.

Sally was located about 70 miles southwest of Port Charlotte, had maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour and was moving north-northwest at 8 mph, according to the hurricane center’s 11 p.m. Saturday advisory.

It doesn’t pose much of a threat to Tampa Bay, which is already out of its potential path, but the storm will continue to bring heavy rains and potential flooding.

“The center is ill-defined but it has a chance of strengthening in these warm waters,” said Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. "Even though it misses us, we’re still going to get a lot of weather up our way that will up our rain chances.”

Related: Tampa Bay to see heavy rains even as tropical depression moves west

The National Weather Service estimates 2 to 3 inches of rain will fall in Pinellas County, 1.5 inches in Hillsborough and less for Pasco and Hernando.

The hurricane center expects Sally to move over the southeastern and eastern Gulf of Mexico later today and Sunday, before a Wednesday landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border as a hurricane.

A storm surge watch and a hurricane watch are in effect from the Mississippi River to the Alabama-Florida border and for the metropolitan New Orleans area.

Sally is the 18th named storm of the 2020 storm season and set a record as the earliest "S" storm on record, beating out Tropical Storm Stan, which formed on Oct. 2, 2005. Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the hurricane center upped the likelihood of two other systems strengthening into named storms to 90 percent and 60 percent.

The next named storms of this season will be Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred. After that, meteorologists will start naming storms after Greek letters such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc, which hasn’t happened since 2005, when there were 27 named storms.

Sally will raise the chance of rain in the bay area to 90 percent on Sunday and Monday, with a slight drop to 80 percent on Tuesday. The weather service issued a flood warning Saturday that could be extended to Sunday.

Paulette was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, according to the hurricane center’s 11 p.m. Saturday advisory. It was located about 385 miles southeast of Bermuda, generating maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and and was moving west-northwest at 14 mph.

It could continue to strengthen into a “dangerous hurricane” Bermuda, and its center is forecast to move over the island on Monday morning.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the hurricane center said another tropical depression formed not far off the coast of Africa and is moving west. And another system near there is expected to strengthen into a tropical depression next week.

Tropical Storm Sally has formed off the coast of Florida but is projected to continue moving away from the state. [ National Hurricane Center ]

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2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE FOR COVID-19 AND THE STORM: The CDC's tips for this pandemic-hurricane season

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

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

Lessons from Hurricane Michael

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael

What Tampa Bay school leaders fear most from a storm

Tampa Bay’s top cops fear for those who stay behind

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