The newest tropical depression stirring in the Caribbean Sea is poised to strike Florida as a potentially powerful Category 3 hurricane early next week.
Tropical Depression 9 formed in the central Caribbean Sea early Friday and began moving west-northwest at 15 mph. It was forecast to become a tropical storm by Saturday morning.
When Tropical Depression 9 graduates to tropical storm status, it will be named Hermine unless another system in the Atlantic strengthens into a tropical storm first. In that case it would be dubbed Ian.
As of 8 p.m. Friday, the center of the storm system was located roughly 410 miles east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica and 720 miles east-southeast of Grand Cayman with 35 mph sustained winds, according to the National Hurricane Center. Based on its current trajectory, the storm is forecast to pass south of Jamaica Saturday night and into Sunday, and then move onto the Cayman Islands Sunday night through early Monday.
The NHC issued a tropical storm watch for Jamaica on Friday afternoon. The center issued a hurricane watch for the Cayman Islands and predicted the storm would reach hurricane strength by Monday.
“The depression is expected to produce heavy rainfall and instances of flash flooding and possible mudslides in the areas of higher terrain in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao,” the agency added.
“Heavy rains are also likely to spread into Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba in the coming days.”
Officials in Florida have also urged residents to keep an eye on the storm system. Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency for 24 counties, including those in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
The storm system is currently forecast to strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane with winds of at least 111 mph by the time it strikes the Sunshine State.
The National Weather Service in Key West warned that the “current forecast implies major hurricane strength is a distinct possibility” and that tropical storm force winds could arrive as early as Monday afternoon.
“Therefore, any preparations should be complete by midday Monday,” the weather service said.
“Hurricane force winds are also possible for some portions of the Florida Keys, with the most likely time frame from the roughest weather Tuesday morning through Tuesday evening.”
While most of the Florida peninsula is in the depression’s forecast cone, it’s unclear exactly where it will strike.