Tropical Storm Ida strengthens in the Caribbean, major Gulf Coast impacts likely

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Tropical Storm Ida continues to strengthen, with current sustained winds at 65mph, as it moves to the NW at 15mph.

Tropical Depression Nine formed late Thursday morning. At 5 p.m. ET, the system was about 100 miles west-southwest of Negril, Jamaica with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.

Tropical Depression Nine then strengthened Thursday afternoon and became Tropical Storm Ida just before 5:30 p.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center. Air Force Hurricane Hunters were investigating the system at the time and, according to an updated advisory issued at 5:20 p.m., the hurricane hunters found the depression had strengthened to Tropical Storm Ida with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

According to the NHC, Ida will strengthen steadily in the coming days and is forecast to become a hurricane near Cuba or over the southeastern gulf. The NHC says additional strengthening is likely when the system moves over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the storm could be a major hurricane strength when it reaches the northern Gulf Coast.

The current forecast track shows Tropical Storm Ida pass near or over the Cayman Islands Thursday night, then the Isle of Youth and Western Cuba on Friday. It’s then expected to move over the southeastern and central Gulf of Mexico Friday night and Saturday before approaching the northern Gulf Coast of the U.S. on Sunday.

The storm is expected to bring heavy rain, flooding and mudslides across Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, western Cuba and parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, according to the NHC. A tropical storm warning has already been issued for the Cayman Islands and the Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque, Havana, Artemisa, Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth.

Meanwhile, the NHC is urging people living along the northern Gulf Coast to have their hurricane plan in place.

“There is a risk of life-threatening storm surge, damaging hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall Sunday and Monday along the northern Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to the upper Texas coast, with the greatest risk along the coast of Louisiana,” NHC forecasters said.

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