MIAMI A tropical depression gaining strength on Wednesday in the southwestern Caribbean Sea near the Colombian island of San Andres is expected to become a tropical storm as it passes Nicaragua and Honduras, and could reach the coasts of Alabama and Florida as a hurricane next weekend, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Tropical depression 16 is some 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) south-southwest of San Andres and about 340 kilometers (some 210 miles) south-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Nicaragua-Honduras border, the NHC said it its 1500 GMT public advisory.
The system, which has maximum sustained winds of 55 kph (35 mph), is moving northwest at 11 kph (7 mph).
On the forecast track, the depression should be nearing the coast of Nicaragua early Thursday, move across northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras late Thursday, and emerge into the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Friday, the NHC said.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Nicaraguan coast from Sandy Bay Sirpi north to the Honduran border.
The Honduran government has issued a tropical storm warning from Punta Castilla east to the border with Nicaragua.
The system could develop into a tropical storm and then a hurricane as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico.
The forecast track shows the storm possibly affecting an area from southeastern Mississippi to southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
Forecasters expect the storm to lose strength after making landfall.