Tropical depression forms near Bahamas, could brush past Florida this weekend

A tropical depression formed in the Atlantic on Friday afternoon, and the storm is expected to cross over the Bahamas and off Florida’s coast during the weekend.

As of the National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. update, the storm had winds of about 30 mph. It was moving at 8 mph and was 155 miles east of Great Abaco Island, which was nearly razed by Hurricane Dorian this month.

The Bahamian government issued tropical-storm warnings for much of the same areas that were hit by Dorian. Recovery on the islands is underway, but officials warned any additional rough conditions could traumatize the freshly devastated community.

Florida’s coast, from Jupiter Inlet to the Flagler/Volusia County Line, was under a tropical-storm watch.

The storm had picked up the pace by Friday evening, going from stationary as of the 2 p.m. update to a brisk 8 mph by the evening update. Forecasters said it could become a tropical storm (named Humberto) Saturday as it swings northwest, just off Florida’s east coast.

The depression’s current track sends the storm along the Eastern Seaboard in a Dorian-esque path, but even farther out to sea. The latest cone of uncertainty doesn’t make any contact with land, even as the storm is projected to strengthen to a hurricane on Monday afternoon several hundred miles east of South Carolina’s coast.

“No direct/significant impacts from the system are anticipated across South Florida,” the National Weather Service said Friday evening.

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Forecasters said conditions weren’t great for the depression to strengthen much throughout the week beyond a middling Category 1, with 85 mph winds, but Florida and the Bahamas could both experience tropical-storm-force winds and up to 4 inches of rain.

“Heavy rainfall and scattered flash flooding is possible this weekend in coastal sections of eastern Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina,” forecasters wrote.

On Friday, as the Bahamas sought to calm concerns about the disturbance, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Nassau, where he accompanied Prime Minister Hubert Minnis on a tour of the Queen Elizabeth Center, where Dorian evacuees from Abaco and Grand Bahama are being sheltered.

During his overnight stay, Guterres is also expected to visit Marsh Harbour in Abaco and draw attention to climate change and its impacts on the Caribbean.

During a morning briefing, the Bahamas’ National Emergency Management Agency told storm victims that assistance was available for those who lacked roofs and expressed concern about the pending rains. Meteorologist Trevor Basden also told Bahamians that the more north the system moved, “the better it is for the Bahamas and the recovery efforts.”

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Alex Harris covers climate change for the Miami Herald, including how South Florida communities are adapting to the warming world. She attended the University of Florida.