Budding Tropical Storm Threatens to Menace U.S. Gulf Coast

(Bloomberg) -- A collection of thunderstorms over the Caribbean is likely to strengthen into a tropical storm that could strike the Gulf Coast next week between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle.

The system, northeast of Honduras, has a 70 percent chance of becoming Tropical Storm Michael in the next five days, the National Hurricane Center said Friday. A strike along the Gulf Coast could come as early as Tuesday night, but Wednesday is more likely, said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground.

“I’m thinking somewhere between a 50 mile (81 kilometer) per hour tropical storm that’s really no big deal -- and a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mile per hour winds,” Masters said. “Oil rigs would want to start evacuating Tuesday.”

Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida panhandled will get the worst of the wind and rain, Masters said.

So far the Atlantic has produced 12 named storms this year. The most powerful was Florence, which caused devastating flooding across North Carolina and South Carolina.

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