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Tropical Disturbance Could Gain Storm Strength

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A budding tropical disturbance has the potential to strengthen significantly and reach Florida with strong winds, coastal flooding and torrential rainfall on Sunday and Monday.

Only one of two active Atlantic tropical systems poses a significant threat to land during the next 10 days. Dubbed 99L, that system has the potential to become Tropical Depression Eight and Tropical Storm Hermine late this week, according to Accuweather.

The disturbance, now about 1,300 miles southeast of Miami, is forecast to take a general west-to-west-northwest path near Puerto Rico tonight and near Hispaniola on Thursday.

“The exact track of 99L will have a big impact on when the system strengthens,” AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.

Interaction with the mountainous terrain in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola will cap the strengthening potential through Thursday. The system could become Tropical Depression Eight at any time, but may not become a tropical storm until the end of the week or this weekend.

Last year, Erika struggled with the large islands in the Caribbean and diminished when it interacted with Hispaniola.

“99L has the potential to become very well-organized southeast of Florida this weekend,” Kottlowski said.

Rapid strengthening is possible if the system stays off the coast of Cuba during the weekend. The system could become a hurricane upon or prior to approaching Florida waters.

However, if the system ends up tracking over Cuba, strengthening could be further delayed.

“The last hurricane to strike the Florida Peninsula was Wilma during October 2005,” Kottlowski said.

Wilma made landfall near Cape Romano, Fla., with winds of 120 mph, on Oct. 24.

“The last hurricane to strike the Florida Peninsula during August was Katrina in 2005; Katrina was also the last hurricane to strike the Florida Peninsula from a southeasterly direction,” Kottlowski said.

The intensity of the squalls, winds and seas will depend on how quickly 99L strengthens along the way.