A potential tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico in the coming days could threaten Florida

CNN Weather/NHC

The National Hurricane Center is giving an area of ​​thunderstorms in the Caribbean a high chance of tropical development next week.


Tropical Depression Ten has formed near the Yucatán Peninsula in the western Caribbean Sea, according to the National Hurricane Center, and could develop into a hurricane by Tuesday afternoon that would make landfall in Florida early Wednesday.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Yucatán region of Mexico from Tulum to Rio Lagartos, including Cozumel. A tropical storm warning has also been issued for the western tip of Cuba in the provinces of Pinar del Río and Isla de la Youth.

The system is developing as Tropical Storm Franklin becomes a Category 1 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.

The depression is expected to turn into a tropical storm on Sunday as it meanders through the Yucatan Channel. By Monday, the system will begin moving north, entering the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm is expected to intensify on Monday and Tuesday as the system crosses the Gulf, heading toward Florida. The official track expects the storm to become a hurricane by Tuesday afternoon in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and to make landfall along the west coast of the Florida peninsula by Wednesday.

The forecast cone extends from Tampa Bay to Panama City, and the National Weather Service notes that “there is significant uncertainty in the 3-4 day condensed forecast and (the public) is urged to monitor changes in future forecasts.”

The next storm name on the Atlantic list is Idalia (pronounced ee-DAL-ya).

Who should pay attention? Anyone living in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Cuba, the northern Gulf Coast and Florida should monitor the forecast in the coming days. The direction and strength of the upper-level steering winds around this system will determine where it will move and how quickly.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Saturday declaring a state of emergency in 33 counties ahead of potentially stormy weather. “The Governor and the Florida Department of Emergency Management are taking timely precautions to ensure the preparedness of Florida’s communities, infrastructure and resources, including those communities still recovering in the wake of Hurricane Ian,” a press release announcing the executive order said.

When could this affect the United States? The depression is expected to turn into a tropical storm on Sunday as it moves through the Yucatan Channel. By Monday, the system will likely enter the Gulf of Mexico, moving toward Florida. It could turn into a hurricane by Tuesday afternoon and hit the west coast of the Florida Peninsula by Wednesday.

How strong is it? It is still too early to know how powerful this system could become – or how quickly it could strengthen. But it will travel through the warmest waters of the entire Atlantic Basin, a tremendous source of energy for the developing storm. Exceptionally warm water can fuel storms to strengthen and sometimes see rapid intensification.

Sea surface temperatures are record warm in the Gulf of Mexico and extremely high across the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Water temperatures must be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit to sustain tropical development, and parts of the Caribbean and Gulf are well above this threshold.

An obstacle to development: Warm water isn’t the only factor at play. This tropical system will also need upper level winds to cooperate. High wind shear — the change in wind direction or speed with height — can tear apart a developing storm.

The amount of wind shear this potential system experiences is a critical factor in its formation and ultimate strength. One forecast model shows more wind shear, limiting its development. Another shows less wind shear, allowing the system to develop.

Either way, wind shear may decrease for some time early next week across the far northern Caribbean Sea and eastern Gulf of Mexico, allowing any system that forms to consolidate.

Meanwhile, in the mid-Atlantic, Tropical Storm Franklin has strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, according to a Saturday morning update from the National Hurricane Center. This was confirmed by reconnaissance aircraft conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Air Force hurricane hunters.

Hurricane Franklin is currently located 620 miles south of Bermuda and moving relatively slowly at 7 mph toward the north-northwest.

The center said in its update: “The strength of the hurricane is expected to increase steadily, and Hurricane Franklin may turn into a major hurricane early next week.” A major hurricane is defined as a Category 3 or higher hurricane with winds greater than 111 mph.

“Swells generated by Franklin are expected to begin impacting Bermuda by Sunday night,” the hurricane center said, noting that “these swells are also likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions late this weekend into early next week along Parts of the East Coast of the United States.”

Watch this interactive content on CNN.com

Small variations in Franklin’s path over the weekend will determine exactly how close it is Arrives in Bermuda when Make its closest pass Monday and Monday night.

Franklin’s winds and rain will extend far beyond its center. Tropical storm force winds are possible across Bermuda early next week as Franklin approaches its closest approach. Some rain and thunderstorms are also possible across Bermuda as Franklin passes.

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