Tropical Depression Nine formed in the Caribbean Sea early Friday and could strengthen into a major hurricane as it nears Florida next week, forecasters said.
The depression is expected to become a tropical storm by Friday night or Saturday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.
An 8 p.m. update from the hurricane center showed most of the Florida peninsula is in the depression’s forecast cone. Forecasters can’t be certain of the exact location or magnitude of the storm so far out, but they predict it will be a major hurricane as it approaches Florida. A major hurricane is a Category 3 storm or higher and has winds of at least 111 mph.
On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 24 counties, including Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties in the Tampa Bay area.
The Air Force hurricane hunters were en route to investigate the storm Friday evening.
A hurricane watch has been issued in the Cayman Islands and a tropical storm watch issued for Jamaica, according to the hurricane center.
By 8 p.m. Friday, the depression was about 410 miles east of Jamaica and moving west-northwest at about 15 mph with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, with higher gusts. The system is expected to turn toward the north-northwest Sunday and Monday, when the storm will have its most significant intensification over the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.
The depression is expected to pass south of Jamaica as a tropical storm Sunday and approach the Cayman Islands on Monday. Early next week, the system is forecast to move over or near western Cuba as a strengthening hurricane.
The storm is then forecast to approach the Florida peninsula at or near major hurricane strength, bringing the potential for storm surges, hurricane-force winds and heavy rains.
However, it’s too soon to tell exactly where the storm will impact and what it will look like if it does, the advisory said. The hurricane center advised people in Cuba, the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula to have their hurricane plans in place.
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The forecast cone showed the storm approaching South Florida by Tuesday. Tropical storm force winds could reach South Florida by then, according to Spectrum Bay News 9.
Elsewhere in the tropics, Tropical Depression 10 strengthed into Tropical Storm Hermine, according to the hurricane center. Hermine, located 290 miles east northeast of the Cabo Verde Islands, had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, according to the 5 p.m. update. Forecasters expect the storm to weaken on Sunday and become a remnant on Monday.
Another area of low pressure several hundred miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verdes Islands could develop slowly over the next several days, forecasters said. However, the system has only a 20% chance forming in the next two days and a 30% chance in the next five days.
Two other named storms are still churning in the Atlantic.
Fiona hit Bermuda as a Category 4 hurricane and is now approaching northeastern Canada.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre issued a hurricane watch over extensive coastal expanses of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said a “powerful” Fiona will bring hurricane conditions to Atlantic Canada.
The U.S. center said in the 5 p.m. update that Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. It was centered about 370 miles south of Nova Scotia, heading north-northeast at 40 mph.
Fiona so far has been blamed for at least five deaths — two in Puerto Rico, two in the Dominican Republic and one in the French island of Guadeloupe.
Tropical Storm Gaston is bringing heavy rainfall to the Azores Friday, forecasters say. The storm’s maximum sustained winds are near 60 mph, with higher gusts. Forecasters expect the storm to weaken over the next few days.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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