Gulf of Mexico storm may strengthen on way to U.S. coast: NHC

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There is a 90 percent chance that a tropical storm will develop in the Gulf of Mexico in the next day or two, threatening oil and natural gas facilities and other energy infrastructure as it advances toward Texas and Louisiana.

The weather system is expected to hit the U.S. coast as a tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (72.4 kilometers per hour) early on Thursday, according to the latest forecast by the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Currently located about 300 miles (485 km) south of Morgan City, Louisiana, it is expected to be near the Louisiana coast late on Wednesday, the Miami-based weather forecaster said.

It now has maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 kilometers per hour) and could strengthen slightly before it reaches the coast, the NHC said, warning of heavy rainfall across portions of the central and eastern Gulf Coast.

The storm, currently designated as “Potential Tropical Cyclone Three,” could also cause tornados later on Tuesday in the area from south-central Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle, the NHC added.

“A tropical storm warning is now in effect from Cameron, Louisiana to the mouth of the Pearl River.”

Meanwhile, tropical storm Bret is expected to weaken into a tropical depression in the Atlantic on Wednesday.

That storm, located about 20 miles (35 km) east-northeast of Isla Margarita and packing maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (75 km/h) at present, is moving west-northwest and will continue to proceed across the southeastern Caribbean Sea, the forecaster said.

(Reporting by Apeksha Nair and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams and Paul Simao)