Tropical Depression Seven formed Tuesday afternoon in the Atlantic, 1,420 miles east of the southern Windward Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm currently has sustained winds of 35 mph. It is expected to strengthen and have winds greater than 39 mph in the next 24 hours, which will make it Tropical Storm Gonzalo.
The tropical depression is moving to the west-northwest at 8 mph. It is expected to continue this general movement for the next several days and approach the Windward Islands on Saturday.
As the storm impacts the Lesser Antilles, the islands will be hit with heavy rains and strong winds, but the full impacts are still hard to pin down at this point.
While strengthening to a strong tropical storm is expected in the next few days, the long-term intensity projections are a low confidence forecast.
“The cyclone is small in size, and as a result, it could change intensity - both up and down - faster than what is currently forecast,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Forecast models are currently split, with half of the models projecting that the system will succumb to dry air and increased vertical wind shear over the eastern Caribbean and the other half projecting a minimal hurricane by late this weekend.
Wind shear is a change of wind speed or direction as you move vertically through the atmosphere. Strong wind shear blocks the intensification of tropical systems and can often lead to their demise.
Tropical development also possible closer to home
A tropical wave over western Cuba and southern Florida could develop into yet another named storm as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico this week. Even if it doesn’t form, the system will bring heavy rain and stormy conditions to the Gulf Coast over the weekend.
The National Hurricane Center says the system has a 40% chance of developing into a tropical storm over the next five days.
“Even if this does not become a tropical storm you’re still likely going to have rip currents, high surf, and heavy rain in some locations,” CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar said.
The system could dump 4 to 10 inches of rain onto parts of the Gulf Coast and inland Texas, creating a substantial flooding threat.
Afternoon storms this week will dump several inches of rain on major metro areas like Houston and Lafayette before this system impacts the Gulf.
Certain areas of Texas, including Austin and San Antonio, will also see heavy rain and a possible flood threat as the system moves inland over the weekend and early next week.
The country is especially vulnerable to weather events right now because of Covid-19, which makes it harder for people to evacuate when needed. Shelters might not be available, and if they are, evacuees might face crowded quarters and potentially having to share supplies.
“Storms this year are different from any other year because you have to factor Covid in,” Chinchar said. “It doesn’t have to be a really big storm to become a big deal.”
For live updates on tropical systems, head to the CNN storm tracker.