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Tropical Depression 9 could give the North Carolina coast the blues this Labor Day weekend.
The weather system churning in the Gulf of Mexico is on a track to grow into a tropical storm that could march across the midsection of Florida north of Tampa and hit the Outer Banks sometime Saturday, the National Weather Service warned Tuesday.
But before that storm arrives to spoil the start of the last busy weekend of summer, the North Carolina coast has to contend with Tropical Depression 8, which is expected to rake the area later Tuesday with 45-mph winds, higher gusts and heavy rain that could flood low-lying areas through Wednesday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, it was southeast of Cape Hatteras, with top sustained winds of 35 mph, and moving to the northwest. A tropical storm warning was in effect from Oregon Inlet to Cape Lookout and in Pamlico Sound.
"That will be the first of the two punches," said Steve Pfaff, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "But all eyes are on TD 9. That could ride up our way and make it very dangerous for beachgoers over Labor Day weekend."
Meaning a trifecta of potential trouble — dangerous undertows, dangerous swells and lots of rain.
"The big question is how much," said Pfaff. "We could get anywhere from an inch to 3 inches if it tracks further west."
The silver lining — and there is likely to be one — is that once the storm is gone, the rest of the Labor Day weekend could be a thing of beauty, said Pfaff.
"The weather could get nice by the Sunday/Monday time frame," he said.
TD 9 was about 240 miles west of Key West, Fla., with maximum winds of 35 mph. It was moving west, but forecasters say it could curve back to the northeast in the coming days.
Is it a potential hurricane? Not likely, said Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center.
"The latest NBC forecast does not see that as a possibility," he said. "It is kept as a tropical storm into Saturday, after which time it loses its tropical characteristics on Sunday as it moves away from the U.S. Coastline."
Meanwhile, the sandbags were out at some locations in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area as Florida residents braced for a downpour.