Tropical storm hits Florida coast





Tropical Storm Fay continued its erratic path today, moving north along the Florida coast but not going out over the Atlantic Ocean, where many had feared it could strengthen and curve back toward the state as a hurricane.





The storm first hit the Florida Keys, veered out to sea and then traversed east across the state on a path that would have taken it over the ocean before it curved toward the Florida-Georgia border. Forecasters expected the storm to get a dose of energy Wednesday when it moved over the Atlantic Ocean, where it could linger and possibly reach hurricane strength.



But the storm's center remained just inland early Wednesday, and forecasters said it may not go over the ocean until the afternoon. The chances of Fay becoming a hurricane were shrinking, the National Hurricane Center said.



But a hurricane watch remained in effect for parts of north Florida and Georgia. A tropical storm warning was extended, covering an area from north of Jupiter Inlet to Altamaha Sound in Georgia.



"This storm is going to be with us for a while. That's obvious now. It looks like it could be a boomerang storm," Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday, urging residents to be vigilant for what could be the storm's third hit to the state.



The storm was on Florida's east coast at 5 a.m. EDT (0900GMT) Wednesday, about 15 miles south of Cape Canaveral. Its maximum sustained winds remained near 50 mph. The storm was moving toward the north near 5 mph.



And while forecasters warned rainfall from the storm could just as easily be catastrophic as benign, many farmers cautiously optimistic, hoping a soaking would boost crops hurt by a lingering drought.



"It's very seldom we're hoping for a hurricane, but we are," said Randy Branch, a farmer in southeast Georgia where lingering drought has left about a third of his cotton and peanut crops bare this summer.



"We need some rain pretty bad."



US National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Letro said it's possible southern Georgia could receive 10 to 20 inches (25 to 51 centimeters) of rain — enough to cause severe flooding — if it makes a second landfall.



"I know people hate drought, but when you're talking about a tropical cyclone relieving drought conditions, be careful what you wish for," said Letro, the chief meteorologist in Jacksonville, Florida.



In Duval County, which surrounds Jacksonville, officials prepared shelters, cleared drainage areas that could flood and readied emergency response teams. Public schools canceled Wednesday and Thursday classes, and mobile home residents were encouraged to find sturdier shelter.



"Our biggest concern is complacency. Jacksonville has a history of being shielded from storm systems. While we don't want anyone to panic, we want everyone in the area to take this storm seriously," said Misty Skipper, a county spokeswoman.



In Georgia's southeastern corner, Camden County had public works crews cleaning out storm drains and ditches in preparation for possible flooding. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency also began 24-hour operations Tuesday afternoon to monitor the storm.



A National Hurricane Center forecast late Tuesday projected that the storm's path would take it through Alabama over the weekend. However, projections varied widely, prompting some in South Carolina to hope for crop-sating rain.



"I just came in from the fields. Everything is burning up," said farmer Charles Campbell of Belton, South Carolina. "If a storm is brewing down there, just send it up I-26."



Fay formed over the weekend in the Atlantic and was blamed for 20 deaths in the Caribbean before hitting Florida's southwest coast, where it fell short of predictions it could be a Category 1 hurricane when it came ashore.



Though it flooded streets in Naples, downed trees and plunged some 95,000 homes and businesses in the dark, most Floridians thought they had dodged a bullet. The worst of the storm's wrath appeared to be 51 homes hit by a tornado in Brevard County, southeast of Orlando. Nine of the homes were totaled, said Brevard County Emergency Operations Center spokesman David Waters.



Brevard County sheriff's deputies arrested three men for looting in the mobile home park, and a trapper was called to remove an alligator discovered wandering there.



Two injuries were reported in the Brevard County tornado, and a kitesurfer who was caught in a gust of wind Monday was critically injured when he slammed into a building in front of the beach near Fort Lauderdale. Kevin Kearney, 28, was still in critical condition Tuesday, Broward General Medical Center officials and his family said.



Flooding remained a concern as Fay heads up the Florida peninsula, with rainfall amounts forecast between 5 and 15 inches. The storm could also push tides above normal and spawn tornadoes. Counties in the storm's path called off school for Wednesday and opened shelters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Buyer / Planner

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity has ar...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity working ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Journals Manager

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The prime focus of the role is to assist...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks