Tropical Storm Bret forms in the Atlantic; Gulf coast watching second system

National Hurricane Center

A compact storm racing across the Atlantic became Tropical Storm Bret Monday afternoon while a second larger system could threaten the Gulf coast later in the week.

By 5 a.m. Tuesday, Bret continues to move along the coast of South America with sustained winds of 40 mph. The storm was moving at 21 mph to the west, northwest. The storm is expected to move near the eastern coast of Venezuela Monday night and early Tuesday, forecasters said.

Tropical storm force winds extend 80 miles from the center, largely on the storm’s north side, forecasters said.

As the storm moves west over Venezuela over the next day, it is expected to weaken as it interacts with land. Hurricane-smothering wind sheer is also expected to keep it from gaining any strength, meaning it will likely fizzle in the Caribbean in about three days and not pose any threat to Florida.

However, the Florida Panhandle may also feel impacts from a second, larger storm churning across the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm, located about 300 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River had sustained winds of about 40 mph and has slowed significantly to 8 mph.

Forecasters issued a tropical storm warning from the Pearl River on the Mississippi, Louisiana border to Intracoastal City, west of New Orleans due to the potentially quick formation of a storm . A tropical storm watch is in effect from west of Intracoastal City to High Island, Texas.

For the first time this year, forecasters are issuing advisories for systems even before they become tropical cyclones if they pose an imminent risk to the U.S. coast. However, the margin of error for such systems is greater because the poorly structured storms are harder to predict.

Because of strong wind sheer over the Gulf, the storm is not expected to gain much intensity, forecasters said. The storm is expected to move to the north, northwest over the next 12 to 24 hours, then make a sharper turn to the northwest as it nears the Texas coast.

The system is expected to produce heavy rainfall, with up to 10 inches possible in parts of the Panhandle.

Bret’s arrival so early in the hurricane season, which began June 1, marks a rare quick start to the season. Since records began, just 5 percent of Atlantic tropical storms have formed in June, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records. NBC6 meteorologist John Morales said Bret is the earliest on record to form east of the Antilles.

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