Tropical wave near Puerto Rico gaining strength

The Atlantic tropical weather season has been quiet so far in 2010, but that may be about to change. The CBS4 Storm Team is currently monitoring a strong tropical wave near Puerto Rico that became more organized overnight and could become a tropical depression as early as Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center has put the chances of development in the next 48 hours at 40 percent. The system has dumped heavy rain over Caribbean islands in and around Puerto Rico and is moving west-northwest at 5 – 10 miles per hour.

The system doesn't have a sign of a surface circulation, but wind shear levels are dropping. Overall, the conditions in the area are expected to become more favorable for development during the next 48 hours.

CBS4 Storm Team meteorologist Craig Setzer said the only inhibiting factor to the development of the storm is the land along the system's path.

If it does develop into a tropical cyclone, it would be Tropical Depression #3 and the next name on the list would be Bonnie if it were to strengthen to Tropical Storm status.

Regardless of development, heavy rain and gusty winds will likely affect the Northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Eastern Cuba, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas the next couple of days.

Hurricane hunters may be deployed as early as Wednesday to investigate the system.