Regardless of whether a cyclone forms, dangerous storm surge, strong winds and heavy rain are expected to hit the warning areas Friday evening and Saturday, the hurricane center says.
The system’s core may slam into the Florida Panhandle on Saturday morning, forecasts show.
Storm surge is a major concern for Florida
The storm system still was over the Gulf of Mexico early Friday, with sustained winds near 40 mph. Its outer edges earlier brought heavy rain to portions of southern Mexico.
As the system approaches Florida, it could bring dangerous storm surge — 2 to 5 feet — to a large portion of Florida’s Gulf Coast, from Indian Pass near the Big Bend region south to Clearwater Beach, forecasters say.
Winds and rain
Tropical-storm-force winds — 39 mph and higher — are expected Friday in the tropical storm warning areas.
Forecast models show the storm could move into interior sections of the US Southeast — parts of Georgia and the Carolinas — on Saturday and Sunday. Winds at similar strength are possible there, the hurricane center says.
The storm is expected to drop 2 to 6 inches of rain over the weekend in the central Gulf Coast, northern and central Florida, and parts of Georgia and the Carolinas, forecasters say.
CNN’s Sara Tonks and Judson Jones contributed to this report.