MIAMI - Tropical Storm Debby formed in the central Gulf of Mexico on Saturday and storm warnings were posted for part of the Louisiana coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Debby covered much of the eastern Gulf and was centered about 220 miles (354 km) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm had top winds of 50 miles per hour (81 km per hour) and was expected to strengthen slowly, nearing hurricane force by Thursday.

Debby was moving slowly north and was expected to turn to the west on Sunday. On the hurricane center's projected path, the storm would skirt the Louisiana coast through Tuesday and hit Texas late in the week.

A tropical storm warning was issued for the Louisiana coast from the Pearl River west to Morgan City, excluding the city of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. Residents were warned to expect storm conditions within 36 hours.

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