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Tropical system could intensify, head towards Gulf

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Disturbance has 40 percent chance of intensifying
  • High winds and seas could distribute oil
  • System moving from the Caribbean at 10 mph

(CNN) -- A tropical disturbance that has dumped heavy rain on parts of the Caribbean has a medium chance of forming into a much stronger storm and could head into the oil-tainted Gulf of Mexico by next week.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said Thursday there was a 40 percent chance that the storm would develop further in the next 48 hours. It was too early to predict whether it would intensify or reach areas of the Gulf Coast, but even a tropical depression could cause significant disruption to oil-affected areas.

High winds and seas could distribute the oil -- still gushing from a blown deepwater well -- over a wider area and storm surges could wash more oil ashore, according to a fact sheet prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It's incredibly disorganized," said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen. He cautioned that the chances it becoming a hurricane are slim.

The NOAA forecast Thursday said that upper-level winds were conducive to intensifying the system as it moved westward or west-northwestward at about 10 mph in the next couple of days. Heavy rains have fallen in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands, NOAA said.