Video: Forecasting Dennis
updated 7/8/2005 2:05:48 PM ET 2005-07-08T18:05:48

With Hurricane Dennis expected to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast by the end of this weekend, MSNBC meteorologist Sean McLaughlin joined MSNBC Live's Amy Robach and Natalie Allen on Friday.

In addition to sharing the forecasted path of the storm, McLaughlin also discussed which factors may play a role in the hurricane's strength as it approaches the U.S.

With winds estimated to breech 150 mph, both Cuba and the Florida Keys were preparing for substantial wind and rain on Friday. As of noon, ET, the eye of Hurricane Dennis was "currently right near the mountain range in the center part of Cuba." McLaughlin said.

"Its moving to the NW at 13 mph, so by tomorrow morning, it should be right off the southern (Florida) Keys with very strong winds, some heavy rain and the same occurring along the western coastline near Tampa," McLaughlin said.

"Landfall will occur by Sunday morning, it will be somewhere along the Gulf Coast, basically covering everything from New Orleans back to Apalachicola, (Fla.)." McLaughlin forecasted.

Though the Saffir-Simpson scale classifies Dennis as a four, the storm requires only a bit more strength earn a rating of five, the highest classification on the scale.

McLaughlin said he expects the hurricane to weaken a bit once it passes over Cuba, but to then gather strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

"Though hurricanes don't like land because it causes friction and interrupts the organization of the storm, they love ocean water temperatures, which adds fuel to the storm because it's evaporated and condensed faster. Basically, once Hurricane Dennis clears Cuba and enters the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, we definitely believe it's going to strengthen." McLaughlin said.

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