An area of showers and thunderstorms over the northwestern Caribbean Sea has the potential to become a tropical storm and pass near South Florida this weekend.

"We have begun to see thunderstorms wrapping around a center near the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

"While the window for development is short, this area of downpours may still organize into a tropical depression or storm into Saturday," Kottlowski said.

The next name on the list of tropical storms for the 2017 Atlantic season is Philippe.

The storm, officially named or not, will accelerate northeastward across Cuba then over the Florida Straits, perhaps brushing South Florida and/or the Bahamas during Saturday night.

"Because of the interaction with the mountains of Cuba and increasing strong winds aloft, the storm may have difficulty in intensifying," Kottlowski said.

"In areas from Central America to Cuba, heavy rain will be the main issue and not so much the wind."

Localized rainfall of 5-10 inches (128-250 mm) will raise the risk of flash flooding and mudslides on land areas in the northwestern Caribbean into Saturday.

The storm will begin to pick up forward speed and pass near or over South Florida on Saturday and Saturday night.

Rainfall of 3-5 inches (76-128 mm) with locally higher amounts can occur over South Florida and the northwestern Bahamas.

Much of this rain may fall during a few hours, which will bring the potential for street and low-lying area flooding.

Depending on the strength of the storm, there will be the potential for locally severe thunderstorms. A couple of isolated tornadoes and waterspouts cannot be ruled out.

People spending time outdoors should seek shelter at the first sign of threatening conditions.

Small craft should consider remaining in port on Saturday and Saturday night as there will be the potential for dangerous squalls and sudden rough seas.

Beyond Florida, the storm is forecast to merge with a non-tropical storm in the northeastern United States.

As the two storms merge the risk of widespread flooding, travel disruptions and the potential for damaging winds and power outages will increase from the mid-Atlantic coast through New England from Sunday to Monday.