(6:15 p.m. EDT) -- It's not a named storm (yet), but Tropical Depression 3 in the Atlantic is already delivering heavy wind and rain -- causing at least one cruise line to alter an itinerary.
According to the National Hurricane Center's 5 p.m. report, the depression is located about 205 miles southeast of Nassau and 425 miles east-southeast of Key West. Maximum sustained winds are holding at 35 miles per hour, but the storm could strengthen into Tropical Storm Bonnie later tonight or Friday, becoming the second named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. (A storm officially earns a name when it reaches winds of 39 miles per hour.)
The Associated Press is reporting that the weather system has already caused flooding in Puerto Rico.
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Carnival Destiny, which leaves from Miami today, will sail an altered itinerary. The ship will stay at sea tomorrow instead of visiting Key West as originally planned. It will then visit Cozumel on Saturday and Key West on Sunday before returning to Miami on Monday.
Royal Caribbean is adopting a wait-and-see attitude. The line has a contingency plan in place for Grandeur of the Seas, which is set to depart Fort Lauderdale today. In a statement, the line said that "according to the most recent weather forecasts, the ship will be able to depart on time and head south to Key West, Florida. However, U.S Coast Guard has closed the Port of Key West until tropical storm force winds have subsided. If the Port of Key West has not reopened by early tomorrow morning, Grandeur of the Seas will be unable to make its scheduled port of call there tomorrow. Should the ship be unable to visit Key West, Grandeur of the Seas will spend the day at sea tomorrow, sailing directly to Cozumel, Mexico, where it will arrive earlier than scheduled on Saturday."
Spokespeople for NCL, Princess and Disney said they have no changes to report, though the lines are monitoring the situation.
Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the central and northwestern Bahamas and for Florida's east coast from Golden Beach, which is just north of Miami, southward through the Florida Keys. A tropical storm warning is also in effect for the west coast of Florida from the Keys to Bonita Beach (just north of Naples).
A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.
The NHC's projected path for the storm currently has it reaching the Gulf ports of New Orleans and Galveston on Sunday. Both serve as homeports for Carnival ships.
Meanwhile, TD3 may also impact the Gulf oil spill cleanup. The New York Times has reported that "a newly formed tropical depression threatened to delay for a week or more the effort to seal off the gusher permanently using a relief well." The National Hurricane Center's latest update puts storm on course to reach the area of the spill by Saturday. Still, in a press conference today, Thad W. Allen, a retired Coast Guard admiral and leader of the cleanup effort, said that the cap that has plugged the leak since being installed last Thursday should hold through the storm. Allen added that completion of the relief well -- seen by most experts as the definite way to kill the well -- will have to wait until after the storm passes.
We'll keep you posted.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor
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