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Kalain Hosein

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service (TTMS) are monitoring a newly formed Tropical Depression located east of the Windward Islands as of yesterday.

According to the TTMS, the system has a high chance of turning into a Tropical Storm and is expected to pass north of T&T on Saturday.

It will be called Tropical Storm Gonzalo.

The official forecast calls for the Depression to strengthen into a strong storm over the next 48 hours as conditions remain favourable. Forecast models are showing two extremes – one showing a weaker tropical cyclone nearing T&T due to impacts from increasing wind shear, dry air, and Saharan Dust.

The other extreme shows the Depression nearing hurricane-status, curving well north of the Southern Windwards, including T&T, and moving across the French Antilles on Sunday.

The official forecast by the NHC is a blend of both extremes. It shows a modest tropical storm moving just north of Tobago on Saturday afternoon, posing a direct threat to Grenada and the Grenadines.

The Tropical Depression is subject to rapid intensity variations and minor changes in the track can result in significant impacts to T&T if it shifts slightly south.

It can result in not a raindrop if it moves further north.

As a storm, it is expected to pack winds of 90 km/h with gusts up to 110 km/h but the stronger winds are forecast to remain north of the country.

With the system still four days away, meteorologists say a lot can change. Tropical storm watches would be issued 48 hours in advance if tropical-storm-force winds are possible, while tropical storm warnings would be issued 36 hours ahead of expected tropical-storm-force winds.

People living in flood-prone areas are advised to prepare sandbags and ensure watercourses and gutterings are cleared, secure loose objects outdoors and trim larger trees.