The National Weather Service has upgraded the storm surge watch for coastal areas of Pinellas County to a storm surge warning due to a potential tropical cyclone in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.
A storm surge warning means life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline is possible within the next 36 hours.
National Hurricane Center forecasters say potential tropical cyclone 16 is expected to develop into a tropical or subtropical storm later today or tonight.
A tropical storm warning is in effect from the border of Mississippi and Alabama to the Ochlockonee River in Florida and Grand Isle Louisiana to the mouth of the Pearl River. A tropical storm watch is in effect for east of the Ochlockonee River to Yankeetown, Florida.
A storm surge warning is in effect from Indian Pass to coastal areas of Pinellas. NWS says the potential for storm surge in Pinellas is 2-4 feet through early Monday morning. Residents should be prepared for flooding and should evacuate storm-surge prone areas if necessary.
The tropical system is forecast to move northeast through the Gulf of Mexico over the next 24-48 hours, bringing gusty winds and increased rain chances to the area late Friday through Saturday.
Pinellas County residents can expect winds to stay below tropical storm force this weekend with a peak wind forecast of 20-30 mph with gusts to 50 mph, according to NWS’s latest advisory. Rainfall of 1-3 inches is possible with locally higher amounts. NWS does not expect flooding from rainfall in Pinellas. Isolated tornados are possible.
The latest advisory from NHC shows a tropical storm making landfall over the Florida panhandle late Friday or early Saturday morning.
NWS says winds and seas will begin to increase Friday afternoon as tropical weather moves northeast. Mariners should prepare for gusty winds near gale force, building seas of 9-13 feet, possible waterspouts and frequent lightening.
Pinellas County Emergency Management is monitoring the system and advises residents to review their preparedness plans, as the county could experience severe weather including heavy rain, gusty wind, strong rip currents and high surf. No sand bags are being distributed, as they offer no protection against storm surge.
Residents are urged to sign up for Alert Pinellas at www.pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas. For more information, visit www.pinellascounty/emergency.
Suzette Porter is TBN's Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Revised to upgrade storm surge watch to storm surge warning.