A tropical storm with winds of at least 39 miles an hour is forecast to hit the Florida Keys today with heavy rains before passing the Miami area and over the state’s southeast coast on a track toward the Carolinas.
The weather system, currently a depression with winds of 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour, is expected to strengthen after passing Cuba, the center said in a statement at 5 a.m. Miami time. Once it reaches tropical storm status, it will be called Nicole, the 14th named one of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The storm was over the Cuban coast 100 miles south of Marathon, Florida, moving north-northeast at 14 mph, the center said. The center’s forecast map shows the system passing close to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach after buffeting the Florida Keys before heading northward toward the Carolinas.
“The center of the tropical cyclone will move over the Florida Straits later this morning and be near or over southeastern Florida by this evening,” the center said. “Some strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours and the depression is expected to become a tropical storm later today.”
Tropical storm warnings, indicating such conditions are expected within 36 hours, were in place in the Cayman Islands, Cuban provinces from Matanzas to Ciego de Avila, the northwestern Bahamas, Florida Keys and the state’s Atlantic coast from Sebastian Inlet to East Cape Sable and Florida Bay.
The depression may produce as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain over the Caymans, Jamaica and Cuba, with up to 20 inches over the higher parts of Cuba and Jamaica, the center said. As much as 8 inches of rain may fall on southern Florida and the Keys, the Miami-based center said.
After tracking Florida’s east coast, the system is forecast to pass over the Atlantic before hitting land again tomorrow near the North Carolina-South Carolina border.
The hurricane center is also tracking a tropical wave over the central Atlantic that it says has a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within two days. A tropical cyclone is a rotating storm ranging from a depression to a hurricane.
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