MIAMI - Tropical Storm Delta has formed, and it "is expected to be a hurricane when it moves near or over western Cuba" Tuesday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
Delta is set to strengthen to a Category 2 in the Gulf of Mexico later this week, and is on track to be the third hurricane of the season to approach the Gulf Coast.
The Cayman Islands, which are under tropical storm warnings, should feel the effects of the storm starting Monday evening.
As of the 11 a.m. EDT update, Delta has 45 mph maximum sustained winds and was headed west-northwest at 7 mph. Tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 45 mph from the center.
"Delta is forecast to traverse very warm waters over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and be in a very low vertical wind shear environment during the next couple of days. These conditions should allow for significant strengthening during that time," forecasters wrote.
It could cross western Cuba, portions of which are under hurricane warnings and watches, on Tuesday. Slightly more eastern parts of the nation, including Havana, are under tropical storm warnings and watches. The hurricane center said the island could see two to four feet of dangerous storm surge, and four to six inches of rain, which could lead to "significant flash floods and mudslides."
From there, forecasters aren't sure exactly where Delta will go. They warned the storm could bring storm surge, rain and wind anywhere from Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle.
Forecasters are also watching Tropical Storm Gamma, which remained nearly stationary just north of the Yucatan Peninsula early Monday.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, Gamma was about 160 miles northeast of Progreso, Mexico and about 145 north-northwest of Cozumel, Mexico with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph extending out up to 160 miles from its center, according to the hurricane center.
The storm was inching southwest at 2mph.
Gamma is expected to continue meandering offshore of the northern Yucatan Peninsula early Monday and will then pass near or just offshore of the northern coast by Tuesday before possibly moving inland along the northwest coast of the Yucatan Peninsula Tuesday night or Wednesday, according to the hurricane center.
By that point, Delta will have entered the Gulf of Mexico. The more powerful storm's winds could affect Gamma and keep it rotating over land.
"If there is a delay in Gamma's landfall, or the cyclone does remain just offshore ... then Tropical Storm Delta could end up absorbing the smaller Gamma tropical cyclone toward the end of the week," forecasters wrote.
Gamma is expected to bring heavy rains through midweek over portions of southeast Mexico, including the Mexican states of Yucatan, Campeche and Tabasco, according to the hurricane center. This could result in significant flash flooding.
"Even though Gamma is just offshore, tropical storm conditions are likely along portions of the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula later today," forecasters wrote.
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