As of 12 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23

Florida Keys officials are closely monitoring the tropical depression that’s expected to become a hurricane by Monday.

“Any evacuation decisions for the Florida Keys will be made tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 24),” Shannon Weiner, Monroe County’s director of emergency management, said during a countywide Zoom call at noon on Friday. 

County officials will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Saturday for such decisions and forecast updates.

Tropical Depression Nine, as the system is currently known, was 1,040 miles southeast of Key West as of noon today, Friday, Sept. 23.

The weather system is expected to approach the Florida peninsula with hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall by late Monday or early Tuesday, according to an 11 a.m. advisory by the National Hurricane Center.

Some or all of the Florida Keys will likely experience tropical storm, and/or hurricane-force, winds, perhaps late Monday, but more likely early Tuesday, said Jon Rizzo, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

“There’s a distinct possibility that this could become a major hurricane. Our best guess now is that it passes somewhat west of us, hopefully far west of us,” Rizzo told the 150 or so officials on the Zoom call. 

Rizzo emphasized that it’s too early to know how significant the local impacts will be, but high winds and a storm surge of 3 to 6 feet above high tide are possible, he said.

“Tropical storm winds are most likely to arrive early morning on Tuesday,” Rizzo said, but he added that any change in the storm’s forward motion or its track could change the arrival time, so all storm preparations should be completed by midday Monday, he said.

Rizzo will release another forecast update at 5:30 p.m. today.