The odds of a tropical storm forming off the Florida coast and heading north increased slightly Thursday afternoon, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Thursday.
Forecasters said the system, centered between Bermuda and the Bahamas and moving slowly over warm waters, has gradually become better defined with an elongated circulation. They gave the storm a 60 percent chance of forming over the next 48 hours and a 70 percent chance by five days.
Florida will likely dodge any effects, but forecasters warned the southeastern coast between Georgia and North Carolina could see impacts and warned travelers over the long Memorial Day weekend to monitor the storm.The storm could bring heavy rain, which could increase the risk of coastal flooding.
A hurricane plane is scheduled to investigate the storm Friday.
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If a storm forms, slated to be named Bonnie, it would be a rare pre-season opener to the 2016 Atlantic season, which officially starts June 1. In early January, Alex formed off the Bahamas, one of only five storms ever to form in January since records started in 1851. It made landfall in the Azores as a strong tropical storm.
Early forecasts are calling for a stronger season than last year, but still about average for the region. The forecast, made by Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, forecasts two major hurricanes with winds above 110 mph, five hurricanes and 12 named storms. But Klotzbach warned the forecast relies on historical data, which is better at predicting above and below average seasons. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is scheduled to give its annual forecast Friday.
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich