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Archive for Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hurricane Bill takes aim at Bermuda

August 18, 2009

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A pavilion that is normally on the beach is surrounded by water Monday as the effects of Tropical Storm Claudette are felt Monday in Destin, Fla.

A pavilion that is normally on the beach is surrounded by water Monday as the effects of Tropical Storm Claudette are felt Monday in Destin, Fla.

— The first hurricane of this year’s Atlantic season gathered force far out to sea Monday, while two weaker storm systems drenched the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Panhandle with rain.

Hurricane Bill was expected to become a major storm in the next couple of days, with winds topping 110 mph as it moved on a track expected to be near Bermuda by the end of the week.

The storm is very large, with tropical winds extending out 200 miles, so Bermuda faced a potential threat even if the Atlantic island avoided a direct hit, said Nick Camizzi, a forecaster with the British territory’s weather service.

“We are keeping an eye on it for sure,” Camizzi said.

It was too soon to tell if Bill would threaten the eastern coast of the United States, said John Cangialosi, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was not expected to threaten Florida.

“The system is certainly large and eventually will be a powerful hurricane,” Cangialosi said. But colder waters and wind shear could weaken it when it moves farther north.

What began as Tropical Storm Ana, the first named storm of the season, weakened into a tropical depression as it raced past the Leeward Islands, U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, apparently moving too quickly to cause more than minor flooding.

But even as the system dissipated it posed a potential threat to Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where impoverished riverside communities are extremely vulnerable to flooding.

Dominican authorities evacuated more than 100 people from areas at risk for flooding and mudslide, but the rains turned out lighter than expected.

Officials in neighboring Haiti, devastated last year by four successive storms that killed some 800 people and caused $1 billion in damage, said they were relieved that Ana had weakened. But residents were warned to continue exercising caution around rivers and coastal areas.

Along the Florida Panhandle, Tropical Storm Claudette quickly weakened after it made landfall at Fort Walton Beach, and was downgraded to a tropical depression with winds of about 30 mph.

The storm wasn’t expected to cause significant flooding or wind damage as it moved into Alabama and Mississippi.

A man in his mid-20s died after being pulled from the surf as Claudette approached Sunday. In Bay County, authorities searched for another man whose boat ran aground Sunday night, though they believed he made it ashore. Neither man’s identity was released.

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