August 18, 2008

Storm Fay Buffets Cuba, Now Florida-Bound

Tropical Storm Fay was drenching western Cuba early Monday and headed for South Florida, where evacuations and school closures were announced.

The storm brought flooding to Haiti and the Domincan Republic on the weekend, and at least six people died. It was tracking north-northwest near 12 mph over Cuba at 5 a.m., the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami reported.

Its path shows it reaching the Florida Keys Monday night, forecasters said.

Sustained winds were near 50 mph, but forecasters said they would likely increase to hurricane strength above 74 mph as the center of the storm moved back over warm ocean waters. The system's winds extended outwards for 105 miles, forecasters said.

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported schools in Broward, Dade and Monroe counties were ordered closed Monday. The newspaper said Miami International Airport was also reporting some delays early Monday, but flight cancellations weren't likely unless winds surpassed 39 mph.

Saturday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency and mobilized the National Guard, as Fay was forecast to track north and make landfall around Tampa.

Sunday morning, tourists in the Florida Keys were ordered evacuated.