Florida coast under storm watch
Tropical depression picking up steam
This satellite image shows the tropical depression at 11:45 p.m. ET Tuesday.
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(CNN) -- A tropical storm watch was in effect Wednesday for the southeast Florida coast and parts of the Florida Keys, as a tropical depression southeast of the Bahamas appeared to be picking up steam and approaching tropical storm strength.
The tropical storm watch was in effect from the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys northward to Vero Beach, including the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
Forecasters said tropical storm conditions, including sustained winds of at least 39 mph, were possible in those areas within the next 36 hours.
A stronger tropical storm warning was in place for the central and northwest Bahamas, where people were told to expect tropical storm conditions within the next 24 hours.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said the depression could reach tropical storm status by Wednesday. If it does, the storm will be called Katrina, becoming the 11th named storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.
The long-range forecast path shows the system moving over the Bahamas, cutting across southern Florida and re-entering the Gulf of Mexico by the weekend.
However, the erratic nature of tropical systems means their paths often change.
As of 5 a.m. ET Wednesday, the center of depression was located near Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas, about 95 miles southeast of Nassau, the Bahamian capital, or about 270 miles east-southeast of the southeast coast of Florida. It was moving northwest at about 7 mph. Maximum sustained winds were about 35 mph, with higher gusts.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for the central and northwest Bahamas, including Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador, the Abacos, Andros Island, the Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence.
Forecasters said 4 to 8 inches of rain were possible over the Bahamas, with storm surges of 3 to 5 feet possible. Rainfall of 3 to 5 inches was also expected on the northern coast of Cuba.
Meanwhile, in the western Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Depression Jose dissipated Tuesday as it moved over the mountains of central Mexico, hours after making landfall as a tropical storm with 50 mph winds.
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