Tropical Storm Sally formed Saturday just 35 miles southeast of Naples, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is expected to continue strengthening as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico and away from Florida.
It could become a Category 1 hurricane late Monday as it approaches the Gulf Coast.
Sally had sustained winds of 40 miles per hour and was moving north-northwest at 7 mph, according to the hurricane center’s 5 p.m. Saturday advisory. It doesn’t pose much of a threat to Tampa Bay, which is already out of its potential path, but the storm will continue to bring heavy rains and potential flooding.
“The center is ill-defined but it has a chance of strengthening in these warm waters,” said Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. “Even though it misses us, we’re still going to get a lot of weather up our way that will up our rain chances.”
The National Weather Service estimates 2 to 3 inches of rain will fall in Pinellas County, 1.5 inches in Hillsborough and less for Pasco and Hernando.
The hurricane center expects Sally to move over the southeastern and eastern Gulf of Mexico later today and Sunday, before a Wednesday landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border as a hurricane.
Sally is the 18th named storm of the 2020 storm season and set a record as the earliest “S” storm on record, beating out Tropical Storm Stan, which formed on Oct. 2, 2005. Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the hurricane center upped the likelihood of two other systems strengthening into named storms to 90 percent and 60 percent.
The next named storms of this season will be Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred. After that, meteorologists will start naming storms after Greek letters such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc, which hasn’t happened since 2005, when there were 27 named storms.
Sally will raise the chance of rain in the bay area to 90 percent on Sunday and Monday, with a slight drop to 80 percent on Tuesday. The weather service issued a flood warning Saturday that could be extended to Sunday.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the hurricane center said another tropical depression formed not far off the coast of Africa and is moving west. And another system near there is expected to strengthen into a tropical depression next week.
Tropical Storm Paulette was also expected to strengthen into a hurricane on Saturday night and threatens Bermuda.
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2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
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