Hurricane season started with a bang Thursday, as the low-pressure system sitting just below Alabama's coast slowed down and became a tropical depression.
The National Hurricane Center said the system became a tropical depression at 4 p.m. Thursday, when its wind speeds reached 38 mph. That made it the second tropical cyclone of the year.
Forecasters predict it will be a short-lived storm that will approach the Florida peninsula and then move southward, remaining offshore.
A storm system becomes a tropical depression when its wind speeds reach 38 mph, but isn't a tropical storm until wind speeds reach 39 mph. If its wind speeds grow by 1 mph, the depression will become Tropical Storm Arlene.
Regardless of whether it hits that threshold, the system is not expected to strongly affect the greater New Orleans area.
No other tropical systems are expected to develop for the next seven days.
The Air Force Reserve's Hurricane Hunters took off for the first time this year on Thursday from the Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi to further monitor the system. The Air Force has 10 such plans on reserve around the country, and helps with research for the NHC, which has two of the planes in Florida.
New Orleans had a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms Thursday afternoon. After that, conditions should stay dry until Saturday, when there's a 20% chance for thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Hurricane season started Thursday and runs through Nov. 30. The NHC forecasted in May that the season will have "near-normal" activity, with up to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes.
If the system now in the Gulf does develop into Tropical Storm Arlene, the next tropical storm will be named Bret, followed by Cindy, Don and Emily. The full list of 2023 hurricane names can be found here.
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