Ninth Tropical Depression Forms in Atlantic Ocean

The ninth tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season developed east of the Lesser Antilles and may grow into a tropical storm later today, the National Hurricane Center said.

The system was 550 miles (885 kilometers) east of Guadeloupe with maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour, moving west at 18 mph, the Miami-based center said in an advisory at 2 p.m. local time.

It’s expected to move through the central Lesser Antilles tomorrow and emerge over the eastern Caribbean Sea the next day, the NHC said. The system may grow to hurricane strength within 48 hours, according to the agency. An Air Force Reserve “hurricane hunter” plane was sent to investigate.

A system becomes a tropical storm when sustained winds reach 39 mph, and is classified a hurricane when the winds hit 74 mph.

The center’s current tracking map shows the system crossing Haiti as a hurricane on Aug. 25 and striking Cuba the next day. While it’s too soon to say where it will go after that, two computer models are suggesting a landfall in Florida, and that may affect the Republican National Convention, Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said on his blog.

GOP Convention

The convention, at which the party will officially nominate Mitt Romney as its candidate for president, is Aug. 27 to Aug. 30 in Tampa, Florida.

“It would take a ‘perfect storm’ sort of conditions to all fall in place” for the system to reach Tampa as a hurricane during the convention, “but that is one of the possibilities the models have been suggesting could happen,” he wrote.

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for islands including Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda. Storm watches were posted for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others.

A warning means storm conditions are expected within 36 hours, while a watch means tropical storm impact is possible within 48 hours.

Four to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain may fall over the Leeward Islands and the northern Windward Islands, the center said.

Two other Atlantic systems are being tracked by the hurricane center. A low-pressure area over the far western Gulf of Mexico has a 20 percent chance of becoming a tropical system in the next two days, the NHC said. Another, 550 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, has a 60 percent probability of becoming tropical.

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