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(PNJ.com) - Early predictions by Crown Weather Service meteorologists indicate that a low pressure system could form in the Caribbean by early next week and reach the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm soon afterward.

It will still be several days before meteorologists will be able to gauge the brewing storm's strength and path with certainty, but Rob Lightbown, owner of Crown Weather Service, said that the system will definitely drench the Panhandle.

"At the very minimum we'll see a significant amount of rainfall stream out of the Caribbean into the Panhandle area ... possibly 6-10 inches between late next week and the beginning of the following week, which is obviously something you folks don't need," he said.

Crown Weather Services of Caribou, Maine complies data from numerous weather prediction models and amalgamates them into one forecast. Lightbown said that several models show the storm developing off the coast of Belize around June 2 or 3.

From there, Lightbown believes a high pressure system over the Atlantic will push the system north-northeast or northeast until it makes landfall June 6 or 7.

"The big wild card is whether this develops into a tropical storm," Lightbown said.

He said that amount of wind shear around the system will be the chief determining factor in whether it develops into a tropical storm or depression, or just produces heavy rain.

The National Weather Service is predicting a high probability of rain during the next several days. Meteorologist Jack Cullen of the National Weather Service in Mobile said the potential for flooding is high given that the ground still is partly saturated from the severe storms of April 29 and 30.

"We've had a good dry week or so, so we've had a chance to dry out a bit," Cullen said. "But the ground is still fairly wet deep down, and it's not going to take much rain to cause problems."

A flood watch is in effect for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties until 6 p.m. today.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association released its annual outlook for the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Forecasters predict between eight and 13 named storms, of which three to six could become hurricanes including one or two major hurricanes.

National Hurricane Preparedness week is under way and starting Saturday, items such as lamps, flashlights, generators, batteries, fuel containers and more will be tax free until June 8. A full list of qualifying items is available at myflorida.com/dor.

For more information about Crown Weather Services, visit http://www.crownweather.com.

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