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Portions of the northern Gulf Coast could start to see heavy winds and squalls Saturday, even though forecasters downgraded the weather system known as Bonnie to a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center said.

As of 2 a.m. ET, the system was moving through the eastern Gulf after crossing southern Florida Friday. It had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.

The depression was moving west-northwest at a very fast clip for such weather systems — 17 mph. Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to cross over the Gulf coast, anywhere from Louisiana to southeastern Texas, late Saturday night or early Sunday.

The fast pace means it won’t be spending as much time over the warm Gulf water, leaving less time to build up strength.

Bonnie could still bring drenching rain to Louisiana and other states along the coast, the hurricane center said, creating a storm surge ranging from two to four feet. The hurricane center said Bonnie could bring one to three inches of rain across the region, with rainfall of five inches in some areas.

Bonnie made landfall as a tropical storm earlier Friday near Biscayne Bay in southeastern Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. But it weakened as it crossed over the state.

Even though Bonnie has weakened, uncertainty over the weather already has hampered operations at BP’s crippled well in the Gulf.

BP suspended work on a relief well to permanently seal the damaged well. And the federal official overseeing the effort, retired Adm. Thad Allen, ordered ships in the area to shore because of the choppy seas and gusty winds that Bonnie will bring. That could delay operations at the well site for 10 to 14 days. But Allen said there’s enough confidence in the well’s integrity that it will be left capped and closed during the rough weather.

Ships used to skim oil off the surface will have to come ashore as well. Hundreds have been operating off the coast.

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Article courtesy cnn.com

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