TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tropical Depression Nine formed in the Caribbean Sea on Thursday and is expected to become a tropical storm by Friday as it moves toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Hurricane Center started issuing advisories for Tropical Depression Nine Thursday morning. As of 11 a.m. ET, the system is about 115 miles south-southwest of Negril, Jamaica with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.
According to the NHC, Tropical Depression Nine will strengthen steadily in the coming days and is expected to become a tropical storm Thursday night or early Friday morning. It is then forecast to become a hurricane near Cuba or over the southeastern gulf. The NHC says additional strengthening is likely when the system moves over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the storm could be near major hurricane strength when it reaches the northern Gulf Coast.
The current forecast track shows Tropical Depression Nine pass near or over the Cayman Islands Thursday night, then the Isle of Youth and Western Cuba on Friday. It’s then expected to move over the southeastern and central Gulf of Mexico Friday night and Saturday before approaching the northern Gulf Coast of the U.S. on Sunday.
The storm is expected to bring heavy rain, flooding and mudslides across Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, western Cuba and parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, according to the NHC. A tropical storm warning has already been issued for the Cayman Islands and the Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque, Havana, Artemisa, Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth.
Meanwhile, the NHC is urging people living along the northern Gulf Coast to have their hurricane plan in place.
“There is a risk of life-threatening storm surge, damaging hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall Sunday and Monday along the northern Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to the upper Texas coast, with the greatest risk along the coast of Louisiana,” NHC forecasters said.
Forecasters did note that the forecast uncertainty is larger than usual because the system is just forming.