A satellite image from the National Hurricane Center shows Tropical Depression Chris east of the Maritimes, and the area of concern in the Gulf of Mexico that is likely to become Tropical Storm Debby by Saturday. (NOAA/NHS)
(MSNBC) -- A system developing in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to become Tropical Storm Debby by Saturday, the National Hurricane Center reported Friday morning.
It has a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm within 48 hours, the center said in a statement.
"The entire United States Gulf Coast should monitor the progress," it advised. "Heavy rains and localized flooding are possible across the Yucatan Peninsula (in Mexico), western Cuba and southern Florida through Saturday."
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On Thursday, Tropical Storm Chris briefly became a hurricane, the first of the 2012 Atlantic season.
But Chris was far off Canada's coast and posed no threat to land.
Chris formed unusually far north for an early season hurricane. It was forecast to make a slow loop in the north Atlantic before weakening further on Friday.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but got off to an early start this year. Tropical Storm Alberto quickly fizzled off South Carolina and Tropical Storm Beryl soaked the Southeast in May.
Government forecasters predicted nine to 15 tropical storms in the Atlantic basin this year, with four to eight strengthening into hurricanes.