Storm Michael could soon form, hit U.S. midweek

(Reuters) - A tropical storm is likely to develop in the northwestern Caribbean in coming days and could bring storm surge and heavy rainfall to the U.S. Gulf Coast by midweek, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Saturday.

It is still too early to say how strong the storm could be, but the system is set to bring heavy rain and flash flooding to areas of Central America, western Cuba and Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula in coming days, the center said in a tweet.

At 3:48 p.m. CDT (2048 GMT) on Saturday, the disturbance was located in the northwestern Caribbean 175 miles (282 km) south of Cozumel, Mexico, moving northwest at about 6 mph, the National Weather Service said.

A hurricane center graphic showed the disturbance gaining storm-level winds of over 39 mph on Monday and maintaining those speeds as it potentially hits the Florida coast east of Pensacola on Wednesday.

Winds were forecast to drop in intensity as the system tracks northeast over Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, reaching North Carolina by Thursday.

The next tropical storm name on the hurricane center’s list is Michael.

“There is still too much uncertainty to discuss specific impacts, but we do know there will be a HIGH rip current risk, high surf, and increased rain chances beginning Monday,” the National Weather Service Mobile/Pensacola said.

Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Dan Grebler