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Tropical depression still a concern

MANATEE — To illustrate just how far it is from Manatee County, the tropical depression in the At- lantic Ocean is forecast to still be 1,900 miles from the east coast of Florida on Sunday if it continues at its present rate of speed.

But that doesn’t mean local weather officials aren’t keeping close tabs on Tropical Depression Two, officially the second tropical depression of a storm season that still doesn’t have a named storm yet and only one other depression.

TD2, which may be the first named storm of the season by the time you are reading this, is part of a fairly active tropical weather scene right now.

There’s a tropical wave 550 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, producing showers and thunderstorms, but not seen as a great threat to life and property, said Ernie Jillson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Center in Ruskin.

There is also a weak disturbance off the coast of Mexico and a tropical depression in the Pacific, according to the National Hurricane Center website. But TD2 could be a different matter.

“It’s still way out there,” Jillson said of the tropical depression that rolled off the coast of Africa several days ago.

“It’s a lot closer to Africa than it is to us. But it sure looks like it could become a hurricane. Conditions are marginally favorable.”

As of Tuesday, the depression was 350 miles west of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands, traveling west at 25 knots per hour, which translates to 30 mph, Jillson said.

The system, which has cloud cover over a 150-mile radius, is generating maximum sustained winds of near 30 mph, with higher gusts, Jillson added.

A tropical depression becomes a topical storm when its maximum sustained winds reach 40 mph, Jillson said. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 75 mph, Jillson added.

What concerns meteorologists about TD2 is that it is now over warm water and the wind sheer is low, all factors that could lead to strengthening, according to a report on the National Hurricane Center Web site.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.