The next hurricane of the 2021 season could form this weekend.
A tropical depression in the southern Caribbean Sea organized faster than expected and strengthened into a tropical storm Thursday night. The National Hurricane Center projects the storm will move between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico by the weekend.
Tropical Storm Ida doesn’t pose an imminent threat to Florida. The storm’s forecast path has steadily moved east — putting it closer to Tampa Bay than initially expected — but still has it headed toward the Louisiana or Texas coasts.
Early models project the storm could become a “significant hurricane” after entering the Gulf of Mexico, Matthew Cappucci, a meteorologist for the Washington Post, said Thursday.
“Every major weather model is consistent in developing a potentially significant hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend,” Cappucci said in a tweet. “We’re becoming more confident that the northern Gulf really has to watch this. Storm has yet to develop but could be a big problem.”
According to an 8 p.m. advisory, the Cayman Islands and parts of Cuba are under a tropical storm warning, meaning tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours. Dangerous storm surge could happen in parts of western Cuba, including the Isle of Youth. Watches may be initiated for parts of the northern U.S. Gulf Coast late Thursday night or Friday morning.
The center of the storm will pass over the Cayman Islands on Thursday night, western Cuba on Friday and travel into the southeastern and central Gulf of Mexico later that night and Saturday.
The system is projected to hit the northern Gulf Coast “at or near major hurricane intensity on Sunday” according to the 8 p.m. advisory. The north Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle to the upper Texas coast, could see life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-strength winds and rainfall, particularly along the Louisiana coast. Hurricane watches and storm surge warnings are expected to be issued for this area Thursday night or Friday.
The center also was monitoring two other disturbances, both in the mid-Atlantic. One, about 650 miles east of Bermuda, has been given a 70 percent chance of development in the next five days, but it is expected to travel away from the United States. It is likely to form a tropical depression, according to an 8 p.m. advisory.
The other disturbance, about halfway between the Cabo Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles, has been given a 70 percent chance of development in the next five days as it moves west across the Atlantic.
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