Tropical Depression Nine: Gulf of Mexico at threat for a potential hurricane


Tropical Depression Nine formed over the central Caribbean Sea early Friday morning and is likely to become the next tropical storm — named Hermine, according to the National Hurricane Center.

This system has caught the attention of meteorologists as both U.S. and European weather forecast models show it developing into a hurricane and penetrating the Gulf of Mexico early next week.

Nine has picked up winds from 35 mph about 615 miles east-southeast of Jamaica, west-northwest at 13 mph.

“Only a slow intensification is forecast in the coming days, followed by a more significant intensification over the weekend and early next week,” the Hurricane Center said.

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In the near term, Nine is expected to bring heavy rainfall to Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, northern Venezuela and northern Colombia, which could lead to flash flooding and mudslides across the islands.

The system is then expected to strengthen and intensify into a tropical storm as it moves toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Tropical storm warnings and warnings are likely to be issued for these locations within the next 24 hours.

Total predicted rainfall:

  • Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao: extra 1 to 2 inches
  • Northern Venezuela: 2 to 5 inches
  • Northern Colombia: 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 local maximum up to 6 inches

After passing through the Caribbean this weekend, the system is expected to track as a hurricane near or over western Cuba and enter the Gulf of Mexico early next week.

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“The model guidance in the beginning is quite in agreement, but a wider spread across the track is starting to take shape by 48 hours,” the Hurricane Center said. “There is still a healthy amount of uncertainty in the orbit forecast on the timeframe of Days 4-5.”

Both major forecast models, the US and European ones, currently show the system tracking the Gulf of Mexico early next week; however, the American shows a more westerly orbit and the European a more easterly orbit.

On Friday morning, the European model showed the storm over the Florida Keys on Tuesday, hitting much of South Florida. The US model showed on Wednesday that the storm is hitting much of Florida’s west-central coast.

The Hurricane Center’s official forecast track splits the difference between the weather forecast models, showing the storm approaching the Florida peninsula late overnight or early Wednesday morning as a strong Category 2 hurricane.

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Regardless of where the storms land, conditions in the Gulf are favorable for strengthening the system, and it will do so very quickly, Hurricane Center spokesman Maria Torres told CNN.

It was a slow start to what was forecast to be an above-average hurricane season. Only one storm has made landfall on U.S. soil, and not a single hurricane has landed or threatened the contiguous United States.

Now, a week after the height of hurricane season, the tropics appear to have woken up, and forecasters are concerned that people have slackened their vigilance.

“After a slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season has got underway quickly,” tweeted Phil Klotzbach, a researcher at Colorado State University.

“People tend to be less wary 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 to go. Anything that forms over the Atlantic or the Caribbean is something we need to continue to monitor very closely.”

The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.

Whatever happens, if you live in the Caribbean, Florida, and other states along the Gulf Coast, keep an eye out for the updated forecast this weekend through early next week.

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