Tropical Depression Nine has formed in the central Caribbean Sea, and the Florida Peninsula is already included in the cone of uncertainty for the system that’s likely to become either Hurricane Hermine or Ian in the days ahead.
This tropical depression joins two other systems roaming the Atlantic Basin, including Hurricane Fiona, which will pummel Atlantic Canada this weekend, and Tropical Storm Gaston near the Azores. There are also two tropical disturbances, Invest 90L and Invest 99L, being monitored for development over the next few days.
While there’s still a lot we don’t know about the future of Tropical Depression Nine, here’s everything the FOX Forecast Center can tell you right now ahead of this potential hurricane threat to the southeastern US.
Where is Tropical Depression Nine?
As of Friday morning, Tropical Depression Nine was in the central Caribbean Sea and centered more than 600 miles east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and more than 1,100 miles east-southeast of Havana, Cuba.
The newly formed tropical depression had maximum sustained winds of about 35 mph and was moving west-northwestward at 13 mph.
Once this system’s winds reach 39 mph or higher, it will become a tropical storm, and the National Hurricane Center will assign it the next name on this year’s naming list. That could be either Hermine or Ian, depending on whether this system or Invest 90L in the eastern tropical Atlantic becomes a tropical storm first.
The Hurricane Hunters are en route to Tropical Depression Nine to collect data that will be used to help meteorologists refine their forecasts.
What is the forecast for Tropical Depression Nine?
Tropical Depression Nine is forecast to become a tropical storm later Friday.
Only slow intensification is forecast over the next day or two, followed by more significant intensification this weekend and early next week.
The current projection from the NHC shows this system becoming a hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean Sea either late this weekend or early next week.
By next Tuesday or Wednesday, this likely hurricane is expected to be located somewhere between the eastern Gulf of Mexico and near or over the Florida Peninsula.
According to the FOX Forecast Center, Tropical Depression Nine is still battling wind shear — winds that change direction and speed at various heights — which is keeping thunderstorms associated with the system from growing, and that’s expected to continue through Friday.
However, the NHC determined the system had at least become organized enough to be declared a tropical depression Friday morning.
This weekend, Tropical Depression Nine is expected to move into an area of the Caribbean Sea containing much lower wind shear and an abundant supply of deeply warm water.
Water temperatures in this part of the Caribbean Sea are in the upper 80s, which is a couple of degrees above average, providing ample fuel for this system to intensify over the coming days.
However, one inhibiting factor could be land interaction with Cuba early next week before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico toward the middle of the week.
What are the expected impacts of Tropical Depression Nine in the Caribbean?
The main concern from Tropical Depression Nine is currently heavy rain in northern Venezuela, northern Colombia and the so-called ABC island chain of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. Several inches of rainfall is expected in these areas, according to the FOX Forecast Center.
Flooding rain could also impact Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, southern Haiti and the southern Dominican Republic beginning as soon as this weekend.
Depending on the exact track and intensity of Tropical Depression Nine, there could also be tropical storm-force (39-plus-mph) or hurricane-force (74-plus-mph) winds in these areas.
What threat will Tropical Depression Nine pose to Florida and the US Gulf Coast?
Tropical Depression Nine is predicted to be steered in the general direction of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and near the Florida Peninsula by the middle of next week.
An overwhelming majority of computer forecast models suggest the storm will likely be a hurricane as it tracks toward the mainland US.
However, forecasts for newly developed tropical cyclones are challenging, so don’t be surprised if the forecast for Tropical Depression Nine undergoes several changes — some of which could be significant — over the next several days.
The solutions from the computer models currently range from the eastern Gulf of Mexico to near or off Florida’s Atlantic coast, so everyone in this general zone should begin their preparations now in the event of a potential hurricane strike next week.
So the bottom line is that it’s still too early to know exactly where this system is heading, but know that there is a growing threat of a powerful hurricane impacting the southeastern US around the middle of next week.
The FOX Forecast Center will be keeping a close eye on this system as it strengthens and tracks across the Caribbean in the days ahead.