MIAMI (AP) - A tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to strengthen to a tropical storm as it moves toward the site of the oil spill off Louisiana's coast.
The depression has maximum sustained winds near 35 mph (55 kph) early Wednesday but is expected to reach tropical storm strength later in the day or Wednesday night.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for much of the Gulf Coast from Destin, Fla., to Intracoastal City, La. - including New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.
The depression is located about about 290 miles (470 kilometers) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and is moving northwest near 10 mph (17 kph).
Crews have stopped drilling the relief well that's intended to permanently plug BP's broken Gulf oil well as the strengthening tropical depression bears down on the site.
They have about 30 to 50 feet left to drill, but officials say the last steps will have to wait at least two to three days until the bad weather passes.
Meantime, crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they have drilled so far, but they won't send workers back to land.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Florida to Louisiana.
The relief well is meant to allow BP to pump mud and cement into the broken well from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill.
It's a permanent seal that will complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.
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