As Bonnie tracks away from the United States, a new tropical system is likely to develop in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Regardless of whether it strengthens into Tropical Storm Colin, it will threaten Florida with flooding downpours and building seas early next week.
A growing area of showers and thunderstorms over the central Caribbean Sea will travel northwestward and end up near the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico this weekend. From near the Yucatan Peninsula to the eastern Gulf of Mexico, a tropical system may be born early next week.
Steering winds will eventually pick up and guide the feature northeastward.
At this time, the most likely path will take the system onshore along the west coast of Florida, across the Florida Peninsula and into the Atlantic during the first part of next week.
Latest indications point toward the system moving inland near or just north of the Tampa area on Tuesday morning.
"The system could be a tropical depression or tropical storm by the time it reaches Florida," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
"There is an 80 percent chance that a tropical depression will form and a 60 percent chance the tropical depression will become a tropical storm," he said. The next tropical storm in the Atlantic basin will acquire the name Colin.
The budding tropical system will first cause torrential downpours, locally gusty thunderstorms and rough surf to develop this weekend in parts of southeastern Mexico, Belize, the Cayman Islands and western Cuba.
As the system takes shape over the eastern Gulf of Mexico, seas in the region will build. Dangerous seas and surf conditions could develop, especially along the Florida Gulf Coast.
The risk of flooding downpours and locally damaging thunderstorms will ramp up over the entire Florida Peninsula Monday and into Tuesday as the system begins to organize and move northeastward.
There is the potential for 6-12 inches of rain to fall and trigger flooding so severe that evacuations could be ordered.
"Residents and visitors of Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Naples and Miami should prepare for the potential flooding downpours even if the system never becomes a tropical storm and acquires a name," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.
"If the system strengthens into a tropical storm, it would be accompanied onshore by an area of winds capable of causing power outages and tree damage," she said. "An isolated tornado may spin up east and southeast of the system's center as it crosses the Florida Peninsula."
Winds driving water from the Gulf of Mexico onshore also threaten to flood Florida's west coast beaches, near and south of where the system comes onshore.
How much rain falls, how rough surf conditions get and the strength of gusty winds will depend on the track and strength of the system, once the system forms.
As the system moves into the southwestern Atlantic Ocean, a period of building seas, rough surf and rip currents are likely from the east coast of Florida to the Carolinas around Tuesday. Some rain could graze the coastline of the Carolinas. Otherwise, the system and its heaviest rain should remain offshore.
The warm waters of the southwestern Atlantic Ocean could allow the system to strengthen further, but it is not projected to make another landfall in the United States.
"During the middle of next week, we expect the system to accelerate to the northeast and move away from the United States," Kottlowski said.
The system will track north of Bermuda at midweek, but it could still bring rough seas, gusty winds and drenching thunderstorms to the island nation.
"Even with the system well off to the northeast in the Atlantic Ocean, a lingering stream of tropical moisture will also allow heavy thunderstorms to persist across South Florida at midweek," Pydynowski said.
The impending tropical system comes on the heels of once-Tropical Storm Bonnie, and its strength will depend on critical development factors.
"The water is sufficiently warm enough, so the strength of the system will be highly dependent on how much wind shear interacts with it," Kottlowski said.
Wind shear is a rapid change in direction and speed of air flow at different levels of the atmosphere. Wind shear can prevent a tropical system from forming or cause an organized tropical system to weaken.
"While Hurricane Alex formed during January 2016, it is probably more accurate to consider the system as the tail end of the 2015 season, rather than an early storm for the 2016 season," Kottlowski said. "We are not figuring Alex into the AccuWeather 2016 Atlantic hurricane season forecast as a result."