Tropical depression forms off Florida coast

Tropical Depression One. Photo from National Weather Service.

MIAMI (AP) — THE National Hurricane Center said Saturday that a low pressure system just off the coast of east-central Florida has become a tropical depression and that a tropical storm watch has been issued for a portion of the North Carolina coast.

In a 5 p.m. update, meteorologists said the storm is located about 125 miles (200 km) east of Melbourne, Florida. It has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph).

The storm, which has been named Tropical Depression One, is moving north-northeastward at 13 mph (20 kph).

Local forecasters in The Bahamas said showers have lingered over the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, which are still struggling to recover after being hit by a Category 5 hurricane last year.

However, no flooding has been reported as the depression swirls just northwest of the archipelago and is expected to head into open ocean as it strengthens.

Officials said they were prepared to evacuate patients currently housed in tents in Grand Bahama after Hurricane Dorian damaged the island’s hospital, but forecasters said the bulk of thunderstorms are located north and east of the depression and are not expected to affect the region.

The storm is forecast to keep the same track, which means the tropical depression will be offshore, but parallel to, the east coast of Florida. After that, the track is less clear.

"The system should gradually strengthen during the next couple of days as it remains over the Gulf Stream current and in relatively low wind shear conditions," the NHC wrote.

But because the surrounding air isn't “particularly moist,” it likely won't significantly intensify, meteorologists said.

Tropical-storm-force winds and heavy rains are possible in North Carolina on Monday, and dangerous coastal surf conditions and rip currents are expected to spread northward from Florida to the mid-Atlantic states during the next few days.

A tropical storm warning was issued for parts of North Carolina's coast, from north of Surf City to Duck, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.

Hurricane season officially starts June 1.