Enhanced visible satellite imagery of Tropical Depression Four on Saturday afternoon. Low-level clouds are shown in yellow. (NOAA)

Tropical Depression Four formed in the Atlantic on Saturday afternoon, and is expected to intensify into the season’s third hurricane over the next few days. In their 5 p.m. ET forecast, the National Hurricane Center could not rule out the possibility of the storm making landfall in the southeast U.S.

The center of Tropical Depression Four is over the Turks and Caicos Islands, though stormy conditions extend south over Hispaniola and Puerto Rico as well. The tropical depression is moving northwest into the Bahamas at 12 mph. As of 5 p.m. ET, it had a minimum central pressure of 1005 mb and maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, which were expected to increase to tropical-storm status overnight Saturday.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for the southeast and central Bahamas as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands. Four to eight inches of rain is possible from the Turks and Caicos Islands into the central Bahamas, with isolated accumulations of 12 inches possible.

Further south in Hispaniola, dangerous flash flooding and mudslides are possible in the mountainous terrain as up to 12 inches of rain could accumulate.

Track and intensity forecast for Tropical Depression Four. (National Hurricane Center)

On Saturday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center was expecting Tropical Depression Four to continue on a path northwest through the Bahamas over the next couple of days. Beyond that, the depression is forecast to turn northward, and then eventually head off to the northeast.

However, given that the surface circulation of the depression has only recently formed, and also because of the large amount of disagreement in the forecast models over the past few days, the center cautions that there is a larger amount of uncertainty than normal in the forecast track, and they are not ruling out a U.S. landfall yet.

Something the models do agree on is the steady strengthening of the tropical depression. Wind shear, which acts to weaken tropical cyclones, is only light to moderate over Tropical Depression Four. This, combined with favorably warm sea surface temperatures around the Bahamas and off the east coast of Florida, should fuel the depression to intensify to hurricane status Tuesday.

If the tropical depression does intensify, it would become Hurricane Cristobal, the season’s third hurricane, after hurricanes Arthur and Bertha.