Tropical Storm Barry has formed over the north-central Gulf of Mexico and is expected to gain hurricane status before making landfall this weekend along the southeastern coast of the United States, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said Thursday.
The storm, which currently is packing maximum sustained winds of 65 kilometers (40 miles) per hour, could reach New Iberia, Louisiana, a town some 150 km west of New Orleans, early Saturday.
The NHC said Barry is expected to strengthen over the next day or two and could become a Category 1 hurricane late Friday or early Saturday with maximum sustained winds of more than 120 kph.
It is then projected to drop heavy rain on several states as it gradually weakens while moving northward over land through early next week.
In its latest advisory at 11 am local time (15.00 GMT), the NHC said the tropical storm was moving to the west at a speed of seven kph and that tropical-storm-force winds were being felt up to 150 km from its center.
Meteorologists expect that Barry will make a turn to the west-northwest on Thursday night and then a turn to the northwest on Friday, thus charting a path that will bring it close to the central or southeastern coast of Louisiana on Friday night or Saturday.
Flooding in coastal areas of that low-lying state is expected in the coming days due to storm surge, the tide and heavy rains, the bulletin said.
The NHC also said that tornadoes could form on Thursday night and Friday across southern portions of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Subtropical Storm Andrea formed to the south-southwest of Bermuda on May 20, 12 days before the official June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season, although it rapidly weakened and did not cause any damage.
Colorado State University hurricane researchers released their revised forecast this week, predicting a "near-average" Atlantic hurricane season in 2019 with 14 named storms, six of which are projected to become hurricanes.
Two of those named storms are projected to become major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale).
"Neither ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) nor tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures look particularly favorable for an active season," the forecast said. EFE-EPA