Tropical Depression Nine formed early Friday morning over the central Caribbean Sea and is likely to become the next tropical storm – named Hermine, according to the National Hurricane Center.
This system is getting the attention of meteorologists as US and European weather forecast models show it developing into a hurricane and entering the Gulf of Mexico early next week.
Nine sustained winds of 35 mph about 615 miles east-southeast of Jamaica, moving west-northwest at 13 mph.
“Only slow intensification is forecast over the next day or so, followed by more significant intensification over the weekend and early next week,” the hurricane center said.
In the short term, Nine is expected to bring heavy rains to Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, northern Venezuela and northern Colombia, which could lead to flash flooding and landslides on the islands.
The system is then expected to gain strength, intensifying into a tropical storm as it tracks towards Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Tropical storm watches and warnings will likely be issued for these locations within the next 24 hours.
Predicted rainfall totals:
- Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao: 1 to 2 extra inches
- Northern Venezuela: 2 to 5 inches
- Northern Columbia: 3 to 6 inches
- Jamaica: 4 to 8 inches with local maximum up to 12 inches
- Cayman Islands: 4 to 8 inches
- Southern Haiti and southern Dominican Republic: 2 to 4 inches with a local maximum of up to 6 inches
After crossing the Caribbean this weekend, the system is expected to track near or over western Cuba as a hurricane and enter the Gulf of Mexico early next week.
“The early model indications are in fairly good agreement, but more spread across the track begins to take shape within 48 hours,” the hurricane center said. “There is still a fair amount of uncertainty in the day 4-5 runway forecast.”
Both major weather forecast models, the American and the European, currently show the system heading into the Gulf of Mexico early next week; however, the American shows a more westerly track and the European shows a more easterly track.
On Friday morning, the European model showed the storm over the Florida Keys on Tuesday, impacting much of South Florida. The US model showed the storm impacted much of Florida’s west-central coast on Wednesday.
The official forecast track from the center of the hurricane splits the difference between weather forecast models, showing the storm approaching the Florida peninsula late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning as a powerful Category 2 hurricane.
Regardless of where the storms end up heading, conditions in the Gulf are favorable for the system to strengthen, and it will do so very quickly, hurricane center spokeswoman Maria Torres told CNN.
It was a slow start to what was expected to be an above average hurricane season. Only one storm made landfall in US territory, and no hurricanes made landfall or threatened the contiguous United States.
Now, a week after the peak of hurricane season, the tropics appear to have woken up and forecasters fear people have let their guard down.
“After a slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season has picked up speed quickly,” tweeted Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach.
“People tend to let their guard down and think, oh, yeah, we’re out of the woods,” Torres said. “But in reality, the season continues. We are still in September; we still have October. Anything that forms over the Atlantic or the Caribbean is something we need to watch very closely.
The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.
Either way, if you live in the Caribbean, Florida, and other states along the Gulf Coast, pay attention to updated forecasts this weekend through early next week.