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06 22, 2012 by The Times-Picayune
A large low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico just north of the Yucatan Peninsula has a 70 percent chance of forming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours as it moves slowly northward into the central Gulf of Mexico, according to forecasters with the National Hurricane Center.
The system is spawning a large area of clouds, showers and thunderstorms that is spreading over much of the central and eastern Gulf and northwestern Caribbean Sea. It's also producing stormy conditions over western and central Cuba, southern Florida and the northwestern Bahamas.
"Satellite data and surface observations indicate that the low pressure system is gradually becoming better defined and surface pressures are slowly falling across the area," said senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart, in a message posted at the center's web site. "Interests along the entire United States Gulf Coast should monitor the progress of this large disturbance through the weekend."
A separate discussion message of tropical weather conditions across the Atlantic points out that marine and surface observations already are showing "a sharp cyclonic turning" along the trough of low pressure that is the center of the storm activity, with southeastern winds in one location gusting to near gale force, or greater than 40 mph.
"Upper level winds are also improving and are forecast to become more conducive for development of a tropical depression during the next day or so." according to that message, authored by the center's Surface Analyst Inter Felix Garcia.
The computer forecast models are throwing out a variety of predictions at this early date in the storm's formation, with several showing it loop in the south central Gulf before moving west toward the eastern Gulf coast of Mexico.
One model brings it due north over the next few days to a location just off the mouth of the Mississippi River. Another shows it moving towards the river mouth, and then slowly moving west along the Louisiana coast. And still another brings it more northeast toward Apalachicola, Fla.
The storm could produce heavy rains and localized flooding across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, western Cuba and southern Florida through Saturday.
An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft will investigate the system Friday afternoon, if necessary.
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