A strong tropical wave in southeast Bahamas has been upgraded to the third tropical depression of the season. On the current and projected course, the system could pass through the Florida Straits and head west-northwest on a track that would take it to Louisiana or the upper-Texas coast. Needless to say, interests in Orange County should pay close attention to this system.

 The first initial five-day forecast track from the National Hurricane Center suggests an eventual landfall near Sabine Pass on Sunday or Monday as a tropical storm with winds near 50-mph.

At 11 am EDT, the newly designated tropical depression was located near 21.9 N and 75.0 W. Sustained winds were estimated at 35-mph and central barometric pressure was 29.77″ (1008 MB). The depression was moving west-northwest at 15-mph and could become Tropical Storm Bonnie this afternoon or tomorrow.

The system appears likely to enter the Gulf of Mexico after crossing through Florida or the Florida Straits. Unfortunately, tracking models have been trending to a second landfall on the Louisiana coast or the upper-Texas coast.

In looking at what may happen in the longer term with this system, there are several factors that may affect both the track and intensity. One issue is the exact placement of an upper-level high over the south. This will determine how far west the storm will track and how much of a threat it will pose to the Orange County area.

A second issue is wind shear. Intensity models generally keep the system at tropical storm level, with a couple suggesting that it might approach minimal hurricane intensity prior to landfall along the northern Gulf coast. An upper-level trough expected to move into the Yucatan early next week may keep wind shear high enough to inhibit development to some degree.