‘Significant intensification’ predicted for Caribbean storm as it tracks toward Gulf of Mexico and Florida

According to the National Hurricane Center, the system, Tropical Depression Nine, formed over the central Caribbean Sea on Friday morning and is likely to become the next named storm of the season. It will be named Ian when it strengthens to tropical storm status, which it could do as early as Friday night.

Nine had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and was about 400 miles southeast of Jamaica on Friday afternoon as it tracked to the west-northwest at 15 mph.

While the system is expected to gradually strengthen over the next few days, forecasters 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 the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical storm-force winds could begin affecting southwest Florida early Tuesday, with landfall possible on Wednesday. The exact time and location of the hurricane’s US landfall will depend on its final path, which could change in the coming days.

The National Hurricane Center said Friday evening that there was “increased uncertainty” in the forecast even after it entered the Gulf of Mexico, noting that weather models had shifted west in recent runs. The latest track forecast suggests that much of Florida’s Gulf Coast — including the eastern Panhandle — may be at risk.

As the forecast intensifies, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday requested federal emergency aid in anticipation of the threat and declared a state of emergency for 24 counties. Under a state-level emergency order, members of the Florida National Guard will be activated and placed on standby awaiting orders.

The governor urged those living in the likely path of the storm to prepare.

“This storm has the potential to strengthen into a major hurricane and we encourage all Floridians to make their preparations,” DeSantis said in a news release. “We are coordinating with all state and local government partners to track the potential impacts of this storm.”

Tropical Depression Nine lay over the central Caribbean Sea on Friday morning.

In the near future, Heavy rains are forecast for nine Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, northern Venezuela and northern Colombia, causing flooding and landslides across the islands. The system is then forecast to gain strength, intensifying into a tropical storm as it moves toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the Cayman Islands, which includes Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for Jamaica.

Total Rain Forecast:

  • 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 local maximum up to 12 inches
  • Cayman Islands: 4 to 8 inches, local maximum up to 12 inches
  • Southern Haiti and Southern Dominican Republic: Local maximum 6 in. with 2 to 4 inches
  • Western, Central Cuba: 6 to 10 inches and local maximum up to 14 inches

It has been a slow start to what was forecast to be an above average hurricane season. Only one hurricane has entered US territory, and no hurricane has made landfall or threatened the United States.

Now, a week before the peak of hurricane season, the tropics have woken up, and forecasters are concerned that people have let their guard down.

“After a slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season has accelerated,” tweeted Colorado State University research scientist Phil Klotzbach.

“People let their guard down and think, Oh yeah, we’re out of the woods,” Torres said. “But really, the season is on. We’re still in September; we still have October. Whatever builds up in the Atlantic or the Caribbean is something we need to monitor very closely.”

The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.

No problem, if you live in the Caribbean, Florida, and other states along the Gulf Coast, pay attention to the updated forecasts from this weekend to early next week.

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