Gov. Rick Scott talks about the Tropical storm .system
Karl Etters/Democrat

A tropical depression spun in the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday morning and is forecast to move toward the west coast of Florida, prompting the first hurricane watch in four years for that part of the state.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 42 Florida counties for the system, which the National Hurricane Center said should strengthen into a tropical storm later in the day.

“By declaring a state of emergency in advance of this storm, we are ensuring that state, regional and local agencies can work together to meet the needs of our communities,” Scott said in a statement.

Should they be needed, 8,000 Florida National Guard troops are ready to be deployed, Scott said.

The depression is forecast to hit somewhere along the Big Bend area of Florida either as a strong tropical storm or a weak hurricane Thursday. If it attains hurricane strength before landfall, it would be the first hurricane to hit Florida since October 2005.

Heavy rain, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes are all a concern with the system. Rain was already soaking portions of the state Wednesday, leading to traffic jams in the Tampa area.

Storm total rainfall amounts of 5 to 10 inches are possible over portions of central and northern Florida through Friday, with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches possible, the hurricane center said. The rain could trigger flash flooding.

As of 11 a.m. ET, the depression was about 415 miles west-southwest of Tampa and had sustained winds of 35 mph. Once wind speeds reach 39 mph, the system will be classified as a tropical storm. At 74 mph, it becomes a hurricane.   The storm was stationary but should gradually start to move again Wednesday afternoon.

Officials said residents and businesses along the coast should be rapidly making preparations Wednesday, such as boarding up and sandbagging as necessary.

Coastal surge as high as 6 feet could hit from Gulf to Pasco counties, the hurricane center said.

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the center warned.

Tornadoes are also possible late tonight into Thursday morning, mainly across central Florida.

A tropical storm warning was also in effect along portions of the Gulf Coast, and a tropical storm watch was issued for the East Coast of Florida and Georgia for when the storm crosses into the Atlantic.

Watch the video below for the latest forecast for the storm.




WUSA’s Chief Meteorologist Topper Shutt continues to watch tropical depression’s 8 and 9, which he says could bring heavy rain and rip currents to Florida over Labor Day weekend.

Hawaii is also bracing for a pair of hurricanes: Madeline late Wednesday and very early Thursday, and Lester by Saturday.

As of Wednesday morning, Madeline had winds of 80 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane. It was 140 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii, and was moving to the west at 14 mph. A hurricane warning was in effect for the Big Island.

Damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and high surf are anticipated Wednesday and Thursday for the Big Island, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said.

Madeline would be the first hurricane to make landfall on the Big Island of Hawaii since accurate records began in 1949, according to the Weather Underground.

Lester, now a major hurricane with winds of 130 mph, is still more than 1,000 miles from Hilo.

In the Atlantic, Tropical Depression Eight continues to move away from the North Carolina coast. All watches and warnings for this system have been dropped.