New Tropical Depression Heading Toward Gulf Could Develop Into Major Hurricane

by Suzanne Halliburton

A tropical depression in the central Caribbean could develop into a major hurricane as it churns towards the Gulf of Mexico and a possible Florida landfall.

The National Hurricane Center has been monitoring the system all week. The tropical system became strong enough to earn depression status early Friday. And it could reach tropical storm status as soon as today. If it does, you can call it Tropical Storm Hermine.

The National Hurricane Center provided a late Friday morning update, warning that Florida’s Gulf coast could be a potential landing spot. The NHC tweeted:

“Key Messages for Tropical Depression Nine. Strengthening is forecast in the coming days, and residents in Cuba and Florida should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place.”

Storm Could Spin to Cat 3 Hurricane Strength As it Enters Gulf

Forecasters project that the storm could strengthen to a category three, or major, hurricane and enter the Gulf of Mexico. Currently, the potential path takes the storm over south Florida, with landfall expected by Tuesday.

Here’s what to look for today: the depression gets a name if the system’s highest sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour. According to The Weather Channel, the system will encounter lower wind shear as it reaches warmer waters in the Caribbean. This could allow for rapid strengthening. The storm likely will first hit Cuba, which could cause it to lose steam. But it could regain its hurricane status once it pops back into the eastern Gulf.

It’s a late-blooming hurricane season. But it’s been quite active this week. In fact, another depression formed Friday morning off the coast of Africa. And it could actually grab the name Hermine. After Hermine, the next name is Ian.

Storm Could Be First This Season to Hit U.S. Mainland

No hurricane has hit the United States mainland this storm season. But Hurricane Fiona walloped Puerto Rico with intense wind and rain. Fiona now is a category four hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Fiona brushed past Bermuda and now is headed towards Canada. The storm is moving at 35 mph, which is a hefty speed for a major storm.

By the time Fiona reaches Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, she’ll be weaker, but still a hurricane. Plus, Fiona no longer will be considered a storm tropical in nature. It’ll switch to extratropical. The Canadian Hurricane Center stated that the country hasn’t seen a storm this strong in 50 years.

But let’s circle back to a potential hurricane closing in on the Gulf. Forecasters warn that anyone living in the Florida Keys or the peninsula should keep an eye on this system. Its path is expected to shift to the west, then gradually more to the northwest by Sunday. All storms in this hurricane system have curled away from the United States. While the depression likely will reach tropical storm status by tonight, the major strengthening won’t come until Sunday.