Tropical Storm Andrea forms over Gulf of Mexico
The first tropical storm of what is predicted to be a busy 2013 Atlantic hurricane season formed over the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, U.S. government forecasters said.
Tropical Storm Andrea was swirling over the east-central Gulf, about 310 miles southwest of Tampa, Florida, and packing maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
It posed no threat to U.S. oil and gas operations in the Gulf.
Andrea, which is not expected to strengthen into a hurricane, was forecast to make landfall over northwest Florida late on Thursday before moving over southeastern Georgia and eastern South Carolina, the hurricane center said.
It warned that the cyclone was forecast to dump heavy rainfall across much of the Florida Peninsula and was likely to cause storm surge flooding along parts of the state's west coast.
Andrea could also spawn isolated tornadoes across Florida on Wednesday night and Thursday, the hurricane center said.
The U.S. government's top climate agency warned in an annual forecast on May 23 that this year's Atlantic hurricane season could be "extremely active" with 13 to 20 tropical storms, seven to 11 of which are expected to become hurricanes.
Three of the six hurricanes could become major at Category 3 or above, with winds of more than 110 mph, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
The average Atlantic season, which starts June 1 and runs through November, brings 12 tropical storms and six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
(Editing by Sandra Maler)