The tropical low that has been making its way toward Florida for several days has now been classified as a tropical depression by the National Hurricane Center.
The ninth tropical depression of the 2016 hurricane season was centered south of Key West and north of Cuba as of the 5 p.m. advisory. Maximum sustained winds are 35 mph.
The National Hurricane Center’s official forecast track takes the storm into the Gulf of Mexico over the next couple days before a turn to the north and then the northwest, approaching the Big Bend area of Florida as a tropical storm on Thursday.
“It’s expected to intensify into a tropical storm in the next day or two,” National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Close said Sunday evening. “By Monday afternoon, it’s supposed to be a tropical storm in the Gulf. It’s going to continue westward toward tonight and through tomorrow. Tuesday and Wednesday is when it starts to turn north into the gulf.”
The storm is predicted to turn back toward the northern peninsula of Florida on Wednesday into Thursday, Close added. With that is expected to bring a potential for heavy rain.
“The cone extends from Fort Myers all the way to Pensacola. The storm can be anywhere over that area Thursday or Thursday night,” the meteorologist said.
According to the BayNews9 forecast, there is a 70 percent chance of rain Monday through Thursday, with high temperatures only in the mid 80s on Wednesday and Thursday, anticipating heavy rainfall.
Close, who said residents of Manatee and Sarasota counties should expect more scattered showers this week, predicted the chance of rain to drop Friday to 60 percent.
“Some places along the coast could see some pretty heavy rain,” Close said, adding that right now for this area there’s a prediction of 3-5 inches of rain overall through the week. “That’s not too bad, but it could change. For a five-day total, 3-5 inches this time of year could happen, but if it happens in an hour it’s bad.”
Close recommended that local residents check the weather forecast once or twice a day to make sure things haven’t changed.
“It’s going to be a wet week, looks like,” he said. “Keep monitoring weather over the next few days to make sure ... you don’t want any surprises.”
Tropics heating up
Hurricane Gaston: Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 115 mph; located well out in Atlantic Ocean and no threat to land.
Tropical Depression No. 8: Sustained winds of 35 mph; located in Atlantic Ocean and forecast to approach North Carolina coast on Tuesday.
Tropical Depression No. 9: Sustained winds of 35 mph; located between Florida and Cuba and forecast to approach Big Bend area of Florida’s west coast on Thursday.
— Wind speeds, forecasts as of 7 p.m. Sunday