Tropical Depression May Form in Caribbean on Path Toward Yucatan

An area of thunderstorms and clouds in the Caribbean Sea may form into a tropical depression before going ashore on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula today, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The weather system has a 70 percent chance of becoming a depression sometime in the next two days and an 80 percent chance within the next five days, according to a hurricane center advisory issued before 8 p.m. New York time yesterday. A depression is the weakest form of tropical system that also includes hurricanes.

“Regardless of whether or not a tropical cyclone forms, heavy rains and gusty winds are forecast to spread over the Yucatan Peninsula and Belize during the next day or two,” the Miami-based center said in the advisory.

After it crosses the Yucatan, the system will probably move across the Gulf of Mexico and go ashore somewhere between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle, according to AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The company said it’s “still questionable” if there will be time for development.

The storms are followed closely by energy companies and commodities traders because they can disrupt natural gas and oil production and processing and destroy crops. The threat prompted Enbridge Manta Ray to evacuate non-essential personnel from two platforms off the coast of Louisiana yesterday.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 6 percent of U.S. natural gas output, 23 percent of oil production and more than 45 percent of petroleum refining capacity, according to the Energy Department. The Bay of Campeche, at the southern end of the Gulf, is where Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, has most of its production.

Florida is the second-largest producer of oranges after Brazil.

The hurricane center is also tracking a budding storm near Cape Verde off the coast of Africa. That system had an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical system in the next two days, according to the advisory issued yesterday.

With assistance from Christine Buurma in New York. Editors:

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