Tropical Storm Barry, the second of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season
, formed in the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Barry had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, barely strong enough to be classified as a tropical storm. Tropical weather systems are given names when top winds reach 39 mph.
At 3 p.m., EST, the center of the storm was about 320 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River at latitude 26.3 north, longitude 84.8 west.
It was headed to the northwest at about 5 mph and was expected to turn gradually to the west-northwest on Friday.
Forecasters said it could strengthen in the next 24 hours and storm alerts could be issued for the north-central Gulf coast on Thursday night.
If maximum winds reached 74 mph, Barry would be the first hurricane of the Atlantic season.