Forecasters: Caribbean storm could become hurricane

Forecasters: Caribbean storm could become hurricane

A tropical depression that formed Sunday morning is expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico and grow into a hurricane before striking the Florida Panhandle, forecasters say. As of the 5 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, our area has a 20-30 percent chance of feeling tropical-storm-force winds.

The storm as of 10 a.m. Sunday remained off the coast of Belize, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth.

The National Hurricane Center said in an 11 a.m. advisory that almost "all of the intensity models bring the cyclone to hurricane strength over the Gulf of Mexico in two to three days, and the NHC forecast follows suit".

According to the National Hurricane Center's 11:55 a.m. ET Sunday update, the maximum winds are estimated to be 40 miles per hour with higher gusts. An increase in speed is expected over the next few days.

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A forecast storm path now tracks slightly further to the west but the storm still looks to reach hurricane strength Wednesday morning before making landfall in the Florida Panhandle. Leslie became a subtropical storm on September 23 but weakened into depression then back into a tropical storm and then a hurricane. Tropical Storm Warnings are now in effect for parts of the Yucatan Peninsula and Western Cuba.

The big picture on where the storm is expected to go has also shifted some since Saturday afternoon, when tracking showed Michael crossing the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama as a tropical storm. The declaration would free up resources for storm preparation.

Every tropical system is different, and the time for the biggest changes will come in the early life of the storm, right now.

The storm has winds of 40 miles per hour with higher gusts.

Meteorologist Morgan Barry of the National Weather Service in Mobile says the Hurricane Hunters will be entering the storm later this afternoon and that should give forecasters more needed information.

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