Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Thursday tropical storm watches lifted for Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas as the system that hit Oaxaca in Mexico moves east.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said that the storm once known as Agatha in the Pacific Ocean will become known as Alex in the Atlantic basin.
In Florida, the tropical storm watch has been extended from Longboat Key on the Gulf Coast to the southern Florida panhandle, including Lake Okeechobee, which always has flooding risks.
The low-lying Florida Keys were included in the storm watch.
The Cuban government issued a tropical storm alert for the provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque, Havana, Artemisa, Pinar del Río and Isla de la Juventud, according to the US National Weather Service.
The surveillance area also included the northwestern Bahamas.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on Tuesday. This is an unusually early start to storm season, but not unprecedented for Florida.
The National Hurricane Center predicts that Up to 10 inches of rain is possible in parts of South Florida from this storm, which is not expected to produce strong winds or significant storm surge.
Even so, flooding is likely and winds could be somewhat strong.
The Hurricane Center said the system’s maximum sustained winds as of Thursday afternoon were about 35 mph with higher gusts.
It is expected to become a tropical storm sometime on Friday, which means stronger winds, but not hurricane levels.
“Heavy rain will begin to affect South Florida and the Keys on Friday and continue through Saturday,” the Hurricane Center said in an online post. Storm surge and flooding are also forecast, the severity of which depends on the timing of the tides.
As a Pacific storm, Hurricane Agatha caused flooding and mudslides that killed at least 11 people and left 20 missing in Mexico, officials said.
It caused rivers to overflow and swept people into homes, while other victims were buried under mud and rocks.
This storm is now headed for Florida.
Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane ever recorded making landfall in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season since 1949. Climate scientists say tropical systems will become more powerful and destructive due to global warming.
* Mexico raises to 11 the dead and 33 missing after the impact of Hurricane Agatha
* Agatha leaves at least 10 dead and 20 missing after making landfall in Mexico as the most intense hurricane to affect the country in May
* Agatha becomes a tropical storm after making landfall in Mexico as the most intense hurricane to affect the country in the month of May