Tropical storm watch for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida

Weather experts say heavy rainfall and winds are possible over portions of the central Gulf Coast this week. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a tropical storm watch Sunday for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida — where as much as 8 inches of rain could fall in regions still recovering from hurricanes a year ago.

Potential Tropical Cyclone Seven is expected to strengthen over the next 48 hours and become a tropical depression by Monday and a tropical storm Monday night, the center said.

NHC is advising residents in the Florida Keys and the southern Florida peninsula to follow updates on the weather system.

The storm is moving west-northwest at a speed of 15 mph. The storm will pass over the Florida Keys or the southern portion of the Florida peninsula Monday, and move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by Monday evening, NHC says. It could reach the central Gulf Coast by Tuesday evening.

The storm has maximum sustained winds near 30 mph with higher gusts.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Alabama-Florida border east of Morgan City, Louisiana, including Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas.

Reuters news agency says Louisiana Gov. John Bell has activated the state's Crisis Action Team as a precaution, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott reminded people to remain vigilant.

"With the peak of hurricane season upon us," Scott wrote on Twitter, "Now is the time to get prepared."

Hurricanes struck Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico last year, causing thousands of deaths, hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, massive power outages and devastation to hundreds of thousands of structures.

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