HOUSTON -

The disturbance in the central Caribbean Sea continues to become better organized and the National Hurricane Center has upgraded it to Tropical Depression 18. At 10 a.m. CDT, the center was located some 300 miles south of Kingston, Jamaica. The ocean in this area is still quite warm, sea level pressures are rather low, and winds through the upper levels of the atmosphere are fairly light; all conditions favorable for strengthening to at least a tropical storm, which would be named Sandy if and when it occurs.

As to the future track TD 18, the steering currents are quite weak this morning and will likely remain so for the next day or two, thus not much movement initially. By mid week an upper level trough of low pressure is forecast to develop from Florida southward into the western Caribbean. This trough formation should start moving the tropical system northward through Jamaica Wednesday then across Cuba Thursday and through the Bahamas late Friday or early Saturday. Beyond the Bahamas, the forecast models get shaky with either a continued north movement or a turn to the northeast indicated.

On Thursday, interaction with Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti should hinder intensification. From Friday on through the weekend wind shear should increase dramatically which would further inhibit development, and the Hurricane Center is forecasting the storm to lose some of its tropical characteristics while still being a large low pressure system.

Main impacts foreseen through Friday would be risk of flash flooding and mud slides in higher terrain over the big islands of Cuba, Jamaica, and Haiti/Dominican Republic due to extended periods of heavy rain.

A Hurricane Hunter mission flying today into TD 18 will give forecasters a clearer picture of the strength and size of our latest tropical cyclone. Stay tuned!

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