The National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning for part of Florida’s west coast as a tropical depression swirls in the Gulf of Mexico.
The warning has been issued for the roughly 400 mile stretch between Indian Pass and Englewood on the Gulf coast of Florida, calling for tropical storm conditions within that area during the next 36 hours. The area includes Manatee, Pinnellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties.
The storm, which is near the northeastern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, formed Tropical Depression 3 at about 10 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center’s tropical depression advisory. The depression formed over the southern Gulf of Mexico, and is expected to become a tropical storm before reaching the Florida coast.
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Over the next few days, South Florida and the Keys will most likely see heavy rains and flooding, despite not being in the depression’s predicted path. The depression is expected to produce up to 8 inches across western Cuba and Florida.
“Looking at South Florida, we’re mostly out of the way,” said John Cangilosi, a hurricane specialist with the National Weather Service in Miami-Dade. “But because most of the weather is on the east side, there’s still a risk of bands of rain and some potential for severe weather.”
Thunderstorms are expected to develop early Sunday afternoon, with rain squalls potentially hitting the western sections of South Florida. Those storms could possibly bring frequent lightning, strong winds between 40 and 50 mph, heavy rain and possible tornadoes.
There’s an 80 percent chance of rain Monday, with more heavy winds and possible flooding. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are predicted for the rest of the week, although chances of rain will drop to about 50 percent by Saturday, according to the National Weather Service forecast.
Highs will be in the high-80s, and lows will be in the high 70’s for the rest of the week.
Rip currents are also expected until at least Tuesday across the Gulf water.
If the Gulf depression becomes a tropical storm, it will be named Colin. Last week, NOAA forecasters predicated a ‘normal’ hurricane season, with 10 to 16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes and one to four major storms.