A tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico grew more organized on Wednesday and forecasters were giving it a good chance of becoming a depression, perhaps even the hurricane season’s first named storm
But the system also has little time to strengthen; meaning heavy rain, flooding and some minor storm surge will likely be the biggest threat along the Florida’s Gulf Coast – with the strongest impacts coming Thursday before the system is swept across the state and into the Atlantic Ocean by an approaching front.
“It’s going to get picked up by the trough and accelerate,’’ said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Cente. “It will be moving into the Panhandle by tomorrow or tomorrow night.”
The hurricane center, which gave the Gulf system a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next day or so, planned to send a Hurricane Hunter aircraft into the storm Wednesday afternoon.
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Feltgen said the disturbance had a broad circulation but wind shear was also leaving it looking lopsided, pushing most clouds and storms far to the east over Florida and western Cuba. The system also was fighting dry air, he said, which was restricting its development. Sustained winds would need to reach 39 mph for it to earn the name Andrea.
Still, a large area from Southwest Florida to the Panhandle could see two to four inches of rain from the disturbance. Along with gusty winds, there was also the potential for riptides, storm surge and even tornadoes as the system moves north in the Gulf.