Tropical Storm Andrea is expected to batter in Florida Thursday, bringing with it heavy rains, 60 mph sustained winds and the possibility of tornadoes.
Andrea is the first named storm of what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts will be "an active or extremely active" hurricane season.
The storm, which formed Wednesday in the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to make landfall in northern Florida on Thursday evening. The storm will produce up to five inches of rain along Georgia's Atlantic coast before being traveling northward Friday and Saturday as "a non-tropical low-pressure system," the Weather Channel says.
"Rain bands associated with Andrea will produce waterspouts and isolated tornadoes [Thursday]," the National Weather Service in Tampa said in a Thursday morning weather outlook. Southern Florida is currently under a tornado watch that expires at 11 a.m. EDT.
Parts of Florida are already receiving rain from the storm's outer bands. The Tampa area received around an inch of rain Thursday morning, the Tampa Bay Times reports. "Andrea got a little better organized overnight," National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Mroczka told the publication, which reports at least two tornadoes hit the area in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
NOAA predicts that this year's hurricane season, which it defines as the six-month period after June 1, will have between 13 and 20 named storms, including three to six "major" hurricanes above category three, meaning winds of over 111 mph. A typical hurricane season, the agency said, has an average of 12 named storms, three of which are major hurricanes.
"This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes," said NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell in the organization's May 23 season forecast. "These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa."