Brewing tropical storm may threaten Bahamas, Florida as a hurricane

Powerful storm moves into Caribbean

By Alex Sosnowski for

A budding tropical disturbance has the potential to strengthen significantly and reach Florida and the Bahamas with strong winds, coastal flooding and torrential rainfall during Sunday and Monday.

Only one of two active Atlantic tropical systems poses a significant threat to land during the next 10 days. That system, dubbed 99L, has the potential to become Tropical Depression Eight and Tropical Storm Hermine this week.

The disturbance, currently located about 750 miles southeast of Miami, is forecast to take a general west to west-northwest path near Hispaniola on Thursday.

"The exact track of 99L will have a big impact on when the system strengthens," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

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Interaction with the mountainous terrain in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola will cap the strengthening potential through Thursday.

Recall that last year, Erika struggled with the large islands in the Caribbean and diminished upon interacting with Hispaniola.

However, given the circumstances this time, the system could become Tropical Depression Eight, followed by a tropical storm at any time this week. This, especially if the center of the storm stays north of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

"99L has the potential to become very well-organized southeast of Florida this weekend," Kottlowski said.

Rapid strengthening is possible if the system stays north of the coast of Cuba this weekend, in which case the system could become a hurricane upon or prior to approaching Florida waters.

If the system ends up tracking over Cuba, then significant strengthening could delayed further.

"The last hurricane to strike the Florida Peninsula was Wilma during October 2005," Kottlowski said.

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Wilma made landfall near Cape Romano, Florida, with winds of 120 mph, on Oct. 24.

"The last hurricane to strike the Florida Peninsula during August was Katrina in 2005; Katrina was also the last hurricane to strike the Florida Peninsula from a southeasterly direction," Kottlowski said.

The intensity of the squalls, winds and seas will depend on how quickly 99L strengthens along the way.

Regardless of the strength of 99L, gusty showers, thunderstorms and rough seas will spread westward. Rip currents will also increase in strength and number. Flash flooding and mudslides will be a more immediate concern from the Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

Seas could become very dangerous, especially for small craft from the northeastern coast of Cuba through much of the Bahamas during Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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"All people living and having interests in and around the Bahamas, Cuba and Florida should closely monitor the movement of this evolving tropical system through this weekend," Kottlowski said.

On Sunday, people along the southeast coast of the Florida Peninsula, the Florida Keys and northern Cuba should be prepared for deteriorating weather and sea conditions. Squalls could increase and seas and surf may get rough.Depending on the strength of 99L, there is the possibility of power outages and property damage from gusty winds and flooding.

Property owners in the potential path may want to consider taking preventive measures well ahead of the system's approach. For example, locate storm shutters and make sure the generator is operational.

During the first part of next week, a path north of Florida, just off the Atlantic coast of the United States is likely to be blocked, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno.

Because of this, 99L could be steered into the eastern Gulf of Mexico early next week.

If the storm enters the Gulf of Mexico, a landfall along the upper Gulf coast of the U.S. as a hurricane would be a possibility during the middle part of next week.

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