Northwest Florida officials are keeping a wary eye on a low-pressure system expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico next week as a tropical system.
At 5 a.m. Friday, a low-pressure system initially designated as Invest 98L strengthened into Tropical Depression Nine. The system is moving through the Caribbean Sea and is expected to become better organized in the coming days and enter the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm or hurricane.
If the storm becomes a named storm, it would be called Hermine.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management reported Friday morning that the outer rain bands could begin buffeting South Florida and the Keys with tropical storm-force winds as early as Monday afternoon and evening.
Current models have the storm tracking toward the eastern Gulf, with the southern Florida Peninsula squarely in the storm's cone. Still, at this early stage the forecast uncertainty remains fairly high, according to FDEM.
Escambia County Emergency Manager Travis Tompkins told the County Commission on Thursday that it is too early to predict where the storm will make landfall.
"The confidence is pretty solid that it is going to move into the Gulf," Tompkins said. "And so then everybody on the Gulf Coast has to be aware of that."
The National Hurricane Center said Thursday the system has an 80% of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours and a 90% chance over the next five days.
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Tompkins said people should use the weekend to get into the "preparation mindset" for a potential storm.
"Get that extra case of water, get the gas ready, check out the generator, break out the shutters, make sure that you can get to them and that you can put them up," Tompkins said. "This is not a gloom and doom presentation. We just want to make sure everybody's still got this on their radar."
Santa Rosa County public information officer Sarah Whitfield told the News Journal while it’s early to make solid plans, they are informing citizens of the county to have a plan.
"What we are doing is posting on our Facebook page and encouraging people to go ahead and think about being prepared," she said. "Emergency management staff are keeping a close eye on it, and we will be pushing things out to the public when it becomes necessary."
Both Tompkins and Whitfield also said a state weather call is scheduled for Friday with the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
"We're obviously going to be on those (calls) all weekend and then come back on Monday, and we should know a little bit more by Monday where we're at," Tompkins said.
News Journal Reporter Benjamin Johnson contributed to this report.
Jim Little can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 850-208-9827.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Hurricane Hermine possibly on the horizon, Northwest Florida on guard