Just days after the official start of hurricane season, a tropical storm is churning toward the Florida coast.
Officials warned that the cyclone — which was about 360 miles (580 kilometers) southwest of Tampa, Florida, early Monday — had strengthened from a tropical depression into a tropical storm.
Colin is the third tropical storm to form this year in the Atlantic. It’s the earliest that three named storms have hit the region, besting the previous record — which was set in 1887 — by about a week.
A U.S. Air Force reserve unit “hurricane hunter” aircraft determined the storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
It’s heading north-northeast at about 14 mph, forecasters said.
The storm is expected to make landfall Monday, but already it’s threatening to bring heavy rainfall over portions of the state, the hurricane center said.
That could be welcome news for some as the storm replenishes aquifers in the state that have been low on water, CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said.
Flooding is also possible.
“The combination of a storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters,” the center said.
New tropical storm warnings have been issued for the Atlantic coast, the National Hurricane Center said.
Warnings are in effect from the Altamaha Sound in Georgia to the Sebastian Inlet in Florida and from Indian Pass, Florida, to Englewood, Florida
Earliest third storm on record
Hurricane season officially began June 1. But tropical systems can form during any month of the year.
This year, two named storms formed before the season’s official start.
Alex became a named storm on January 13, the first Atlantic hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938.
Bonnie drenched South Carolina’s coast last month.
Does it mean anything to see storms forming so early?
Not necessarily, forecasters say.
“These first three storms have been very weak systems, even though Bonnie produced a lot of rain in South Carolina,” Sater said. “This really means very little when it comes down to how this year may turn out.”
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Vivian Kuo and Jenn Varian contributed to this report.