TALLAHASSEE, Fla. >> Much of Florida’s western coast was under a tropical storm warning Sunday, with the threat of heavy rains and high wind moving quickly northeastward from the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said a tropical depression in the southern gulf was “expected to become a tropical storm” later Sunday or early Monday. The depression was moving north at about 8 mph and was expected to pick up the pace later Sunday.
Tropical depressions have wind speeds of less than 39 mph, while tropical storms carry wind speeds of between 39 mph and 73 mph.
The storm, expected to become Tropical Storm Colin, was likely to bring dangerous rainfall levels, and residents were warned about possible flooding and hazardous driving conditions.
The National Weather Service in Mobile issued a flood warning for the Shoal River near Crestview and warned of possible widespread flooding in streams, creeks, and canals. Wind gusts threatened to bring down trees and branches and cause power outages.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott planned a briefing with state emergency management officials Sunday afternoon.
Sand bags were being distributed to residents in St. Petersburg, Tampa and nearby cities.
“We’re surrounded on three sides by water,” said Pinellas County spokesman Nick Zoller, who said the county distributed 3,300 sand bags on Saturday, a number he expected to go up now that a tropical storm warning is in effect.
Just to the north, Pasco County Emergency Services Director Kevin Guthrie said the message is to be prepared.
“We are going to flood in parts of Pasco County,” Guthrie said in an email.
Fort Hood officials have identified the last of nine soldiers who died in Texas floodwaters during a training exercise as a 25-year-old Army specialist from California.
Army officials on Sunday said Spc. Yingming Sun enlisted in 2013 and first arrived at Fort Hood nearly two years ago. He and eight others who were previously identified died when fast-moving waters washed a 2 ½-ton vehicle from a low-water crossing Thursday.
Three others soldiers survived and have returned to duty.
Heavy and persistent storms the past two weeks have dumped more than a foot of rain in parts of Texas. The rain is expected to diminish this week and dry out areas such as Southeast Texas, where officials gave evacuation order to about 2,000 homes.
TAKING AIM AT THE NATION’S CAPITAL
More than 17 million people in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina, are looking at an “enhanced” risk of severe thunderstorms Sunday, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
Damaging winds, a tornado or two and marginally severe hail are expected as far north as New York.
BRUSHFIRES AND WILDFIRES
Firefighters are spending the weekend battling blazes in California, New Mexico and Arizona.
A wildfire sparked by lightning burned nearly 12 square miles in the San Mateo Mountains near Magdalena, which is about 100 miles southwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In Arizona, firefighters are fighting a much larger blaze. The Juniper Fire just south of the town of Young is now burning on over 28 square miles in the Tonto National Forest. It too was caused by lightning.
Officials say the extreme heat and a dry winter mean there’s a high risk of wildfires. Summer has typically been considered wildfire season but experts now say blazes happen year-round.
In Southern California, a brush fire burned 30 acres near Temecula, forcing the closure of the southbound I-15 freeway. No homes were immediately threatened.