MIAMI (AP) — A depression strengthened into a tropical storm in the Caribbean on Thursday and is forecast to be at or near major hurricane force by the time it reaches the U.S. Gulf Coast over the next several days.
Both the Cuban and Cayman governments have issued tropical storm warnings amid the formation of Tropical Storm Ida.
Ida is forecast to be a hurricane when it approaches western Cuba and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Friday, and a perhaps a major hurricane by the time it reaches the northern U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday, the center said. The central U.S. Gulf Coast should start to see rain from the storm by early Sunday.
“There is an increasing risk of life-threatening storm surge, damaging hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall Sunday and Monday, especially along the coast of Louisiana,” the Hurricane Center said.
Late Thursday, Ida had sustained maximum winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and was traveling northwest at about 14 mph (22 kph). It was located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Negril, Jamaica, and about 130 miles (205 kilometers) southeast of Grand Cayman.
The storm is forecast to deliver anywhere from 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain over parts of Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman islands. Forecasters warned of possible flash floods and mudslides and a storm surge of as much as 2 to 4 feet (.61 to 1 meter) above normal, along with “large and destructive waves.”
The Cayman Islands government said nonessential government offices closed at ‘2:30 p.m. Thursday and four shelters were activated.