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A strong tropical system began moving in the Caribbean on Friday, preparing to strengthen significantly as it heads north toward the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasts are for the system to intensify into Category 3 as it approaches Florida next week, where it could become the state’s first major hurricane since 2018.
The system, Tropical Depression Nine, formed early Friday morning over the central Caribbean and is likely to become the next storm of the season, according to the National Hurricane Center. He will be named Ian when he weathers a tropical storm, which he could do as early as Friday night.
Nine had winds maxing out at 35 mph and was about 400 miles southeast of Jamaica on Friday afternoon as it tracked west-northwest at 15 mph.
While the system is expected to go through a slow consolidation over the next two days, meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center warned Rapid intensification is possible – if not likely – as it passes over the very warm waters of the Caribbean and southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
If it strengthens to Category 3 or higher before reaching Florida, it will be the first major hurricane to make landfall there since Hurricane Michael in 2018, which was a brutal Category 5 storm when it hit Florida. Michael also underwent rapid condensation before making landfall, a phenomenon that is becoming more likely as ocean temperatures rise due to the climate crisis.
Tropical storm winds may begin to affect southwest Florida as early as Tuesday, with a possible landfall on Wednesday. The exact timing and location of landfall in the US will largely depend on its final trajectory, which may change in the coming days.
The National Hurricane Center said Friday evening that there is still “increasing uncertainty about the path” in the forecast after entering the Gulf of Mexico, noting that weather models have shifted westward in recent cycles. The latest track forecasts indicate that a large portion of Florida’s Gulf Coast – including the eastern part – may be at risk.
As expectations intensified, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday requested federal emergency assistance in anticipation of the threat and also declared a state of emergency for 24 counties. Under the statewide emergency order, members of the Florida National Guard will be activated and on standby pending orders.
The governor urged those in the potential path of the storm to prepare.
“This storm has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane and we encourage all Florida residents to make their preparations,” DeSantis said in a news release. “We are coordinating with all local and state government partners to track the potential impacts of this storm.”
in the near term, It is expected to bring nine torrential rains to Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, northern Venezuela and northern Colombia, potentially causing floods and mudslides across the islands. The system is then expected to gain strength, transforming into a tropical storm as it heads toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
Hurricane watch released for the Cayman Islands, including Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. A tropical storm watch has been released for Jamaica.
Expected precipitation totals:
- Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao: 1 to 2 extra inches
- Northern Venezuela: 2 to 5 inches
- Northern Colombia: 3 to 6 inches
- Jamaica: 4 to 8 inches with a local maximum of 12 inches
- Cayman Islands: 4 to 8 inches, local maximum up to 12 inches
- Southern Haiti and Southern Dominican Republic: 2 to 4 inches with a local maximum of 6 inches
- Western and Central Cuba: 6 to 10 inches with a local maximum of 14 inches
It was a slow start to what was expected to be an above-average hurricane season. Only one storm has made landfall in the United States, and no hurricane has made landfall or threatens the neighboring United States.
Now, a week into the height of hurricane season, the tropics seem to have woken up, and forecasters worry that people have let their guard down.
“After a slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season has accelerated rapidly,” Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University, wrote on Twitter.
“People tend to lower their guard and think, Oh, yeah, we’re out of the woods,” Torres said. But in fact, the season continues. We are still in September. We still have October to go. Anything that forms over the Atlantic or the Caribbean is something we need to watch closely.”
The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.
Regardless of whether you live in the Caribbean, Florida, and other states along the Gulf Coast, pay attention to updated forecasts this weekend through early next week.