Florida not clear yet as Jeanne approaches

Associated Press

Hurricane Jeanne appeared to be zeroing in on the southeast U.S. coast Thursday, with forecasters saying the deadly storm may make landfall in Florida this weekend.

Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned Jeanne and its 105-mph top sustained winds may hit the storm-battered Florida coastline by Sunday. The first watches or warnings for residents of Florida’s east coast could be posted Friday morning, said Robbie Berg, a meteorologist at the hurricane center.

At 8 p.m. EDT, Jeanne was centered about 420 miles east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. It was barely moving, but forecasters expected it to pick up speed overnight and into early Friday. An eventual turn to the northwest was predicted, but it was unclear if that would happen before Jeanne reached Florida.

“Right now the question really is when is the storm going to make a turn toward the north,” Berg said.

As Jeanne could first pass over the Bahamas, a hurricane watch was in effect for the northwest Bahamas, and a tropical storm watch was in effect for the central Bahamas.

Jeanne was blamed for more than 1,100 deaths in Haiti, where it hit over the weekend as a tropical storm and caused flooding. It moved out to sea before looping back toward land.

Many Floridians hoped that they were done with hurricanes this year. Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan hit the state over a span of five weeks this summer, causing billions of dollars in damage and more than 60 deaths.

Ivan’s remnants reformed Wednesday into a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, and forecasters said it would make landfall Thursday in southwestern Louisiana. As a hurricane, Ivan battered the southeast last week, killing at least 57 people before breaking apart. One of the bands headed back across Florida into the Gulf and became a tropical storm.

At 8 p.m., Ivan had top sustained winds near 45 mph and was just south of Cameron, La., forecasters said. It was moving northwest at almost 8 mph.

Systems with top sustained winds of 39 mph to 73 mph are classified as tropical storms. Those with top sustained winds of at least 74 mph are considered hurricanes.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Karl stayed on an open-ocean course that only threatened ships, while Tropical Storm Lisa moved slowly far out in the Atlantic.

Karl, the seventh hurricane this season, had top sustained winds near 105 mph, down from about 120 mph earlier in the day. It was expected to weaken as it moved over cooler waters. At 5 p.m., Karl was centered about 915 miles west-southwest of the Azores and was moving north near 30 mph.

At 5 p.m., Lisa weakened into a tropical depression with top sustained winds near 35 mph. The 12th named storm of the season was centered about 1,120 miles west of the Cape Verde islands and was moving west-northwest near 6 mph. Lisa was expected to turn toward the northwest tomorrow, possibly following Karl’s path in open seas.

The hurricane season ends Nov. 30.