Tropical Storm Florence heads toward Bermuda, but forecasters say still no threat to U.S.

Published 5:46 pm Friday, September 8, 2006

Officials in Bermuda were poised to issue a tropical storm watch or warning within the next 24 hours as Tropical Storm Florence chugged through the open Atlantic Friday, forecasters said.

The storm’s forecast path puts it over the Bermuda area Monday or Tuesday, but forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said it still posed no danger to the U.S.

“There is no immediate threat to the U.S. If the storm follows the forecast track it will recurve well off the U.S. east coast and there will be no direct impact,” National Hurricane Center forecaster Jack Beven said.

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Florence was expected to start veering away from the U.S. coast in about 2 days, he said.

Though still relatively weak with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph, Florence is great in size, with tropical storm force winds extending up to 405 miles from its center. Forecasters said that could create high surf and rip currents along the East Coast within the next five days.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered 445 miles east-northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands, about 830 miles southeast of Bermuda and about 1,450 miles east-southeast of Miami. It was moving west-northwest at about 16 mph.

“People should be taking this seriously,” said Dr. Lou McNally, of the Bermuda Weather Service. “We don’t know exactly how strong it’s going to get but this is something to which people should pay close attention. Preparations should be well under way.”

Florence developed in the peak of hurricane season in warm Atlantic waters, the source of energy for storm development this time of year.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season has not been as rough as initially feared. The National Hurricane Center lowered its forecast in August to between 12 and 15 named storms and seven to nine hurricanes.

Florence follows on the heels of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which was briefly the season’s first hurricane before weakening and blowing up the East Coast last week. The storm was blamed for nine U.S. deaths, delayed the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis and blacked out thousands of homes and businesses from North Carolina to New York.

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