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Tropical depression forms south of Cuba, set to strengthen

MIAMI — A tropical depression formed Saturday afternoon south of Cuba amid forecasts that the system would become a named tropical storm later this weekend and possibly a hurricane within days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The Miami-based centre said Tropical Depression 28 emerged about 255 miles (405 kilometres) south-southeast of the western tip of Cuba. At 8 p.m. EDT, the storm was 240 miles (386 kilometres) from that location. It had top sustained winds of 30 mph (45 kph) and was moving toward the north-northwest at 2 mph (4 kph).

Forecasters said the depression is expected to strengthen into a tropical storm sometime Sunday and could attain hurricane status over the southern Gulf of Mexico by Tuesday. The centre said the storm is expected to remain south of Cuba on Sunday and approach Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula — or the Yucatan Channel — late Monday before entering the southern Gulf.

The government of Cuba has issued a tropical storm watch for the province of Pinar del Rio. The hurricane centre said people on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula should monitor the progress of the storm, which is expected to gradually strengthen over the next 72 hours.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Epsilon was located about 615 miles (985 kilometres) northeast of Bermuda on Saturday afternoon. The storm had top sustained winds of 80mph (130 kph) with higher gusts, making it a Category 1 hurricane.

It is expected to move quicker toward the northeast through Sunday, and become a large, powerful post-tropical cyclone by late Sunday, the National Hurricane Center warned. Large ocean swells generated by the hurricane could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions along U.S. East Coast and Atlantic Canada during the next couple of days.

This year’s season has so many storms that the hurricane centre has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names.

The Associated Press

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