Tropical Storm Colin forms over the Gulf of Mexico, heads to Florida

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A tropical cyclone that formed near the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has strengthened into Tropical Storm Colin, forecasters say, prompting a tropical storm warning for parts of Florida where it is expected to make landfall.

A low pressure area that was located near the northeastern portion of Yucatan developed into a tropical depression on late Sunday morning and continued to strengthen as it entered the Gulf of Mexico, reaching tropical storm strength by 4:30 p.m. CT.

“Reports from an Air Force Reserve Unit Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Tropical Depression Three is now a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour,” said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

As of 10 p.m. CT on Sunday, the center of Tropical Storm Colin was located about 450 miles (720 kilometers) southwest of Tampa, Florida. The storm was moving towards the north at a speed of 9 miles (15 kilometers) per hour.

The forecast calls for the system to make landfall in northwestern Florida on Monday afternoon, likely resulting in heavy winds, rainfall and a storm surge. The system will then move over Georgia and possibly South Carolina before it heads into the Atlantic.

As of 10 p.m. CT on Sunday, a tropical storm warning is in effect for the Gulf Coast of Florida from Indian Pass to Englewood, and a tropical storm warning is also in effect along the Atlantic coast from Altamaha Sound in Georgia to Sebastian Inlet in Florida. A tropical storm watch is in effect from north of Altamaha Sound in Georgia to the South Santee River in South Carolina.

Though the depression is unlikely to become a hurricane, though some further strengthening is possible before landfall. “The large size of the cyclone and continued moderate to strong wind shear over the eastern Gulf should limit significant strengthening,” explained senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown.

Colin marks the third named storm of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began on June 1 but got off to an early start with Hurricane Alex in early January and Tropical Storm Bonnie in late May. Colin is the earliest third tropical storm to form on record in the Atlantic basin.

According to a forecast released last month, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is expecting a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic this year. The outlook calls for 10 to 16 named storms, with 4 to 8 becoming hurricanes and 1 to 4 of those expected to become a major hurricane (category 3 or higher).

Based on the period from 1981 to 2010, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, with 6 becoming hurricanes and 3 becoming major hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, with peak activity between August and October.

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