Caribbean Sea wave

A tropical wave in the Caribbean Sea on Monday has a chance of developing into at least at tropical depression when it enters the Gulf of Mexico later this week.

As the nation watched Hurricane Florence's ominous approach to the East Coast, Louisiana officials focused their attention instead on a pair of distant but threatening weather patterns — one just a wave of spinning atmospheric energy, the other already a bonafide hurricane. 

They worry that one or both could strike the Pelican State in the coming days, in contrast to the recent Tropical Storm Gordon, which turned out to be a false alarm for Louisiana last week.

The National Hurricane Center has increased the chances that a tropical wave in the Caribbean Sea will form into at least a depression when it moves into the Gulf of Mexico later this week.

In an update Monday afternoon, forecasters said the disturbance, now located near western Cuba, is "showing some signs of organization" and could become a depression by Thursday or Friday while continuing to move across the western Gulf. They also upgraded the chances that it will grow into a depression over the next five days to 60 percent, up from 20 to 40 percent previously. If the disturbance forms into named storm it would be either Joyce or Kirk.

The National Hurricane Center urged residents along the Texas and Louisiana coasts to monitor the progress of the weather system. The current projected path shows it making landfall along the Texas coast.

Robert Ricks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell, said if the system does end up heading toward Louisiana, it could arrive late Thursday or Friday — the same time that Florence is forecast to make landfall in North and South Carolina.

Ricks said Texas appears closer to the system's path, but Louisiana "isn't totally off the hook yet."

Hurricane Isaac, currently in the Atlantic Ocean, is the other potential threat to Louisiana. It is set to move across the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea on Thursday. But Ricks said that storm likely wouldn't affect the Gulf Coast until at least the middle of next week. He also said it's expected to weaken while passing through the Caribbean. 

State officials are watching and waiting to see what later forecasts indicate, said Mike Steele, a spokesman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. 

"It's basically monitoring at the moment," he said Monday afternoon. "We ramp up activity based on the threat and timing. We hope the public does the same thing at this point."

Steele mentioned the "tremendous run on the stores in the Carolinas for emergency supplies" in response to Hurricane Florence, which is now a Category 3 storm heading toward the East Coast. "That's part of the reason we recommend keeping supplies and an emergency fund available year round if you can."

The historic height of hurricane season has arrived, which is when on average the most storms form in the Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center could be monitoring five tropical systems simultaneously by the end of the week.

Steele also noted the season's peak — it runs June through November — and said people should remember that "preparedness steps become even more important this time of year."

Tropical Storm Gordon, which was initially forecast to hit the Louisiana coast last week, tracked to the east and ended up affecting Mississippi and Alabama while Louisianans prepared for possible flooding and received sunshine instead.

Follow Lea Skene on Twitter, @lea_skene.