July 9, 2005

Hurricane Dennis churns past Florida Keys

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Dennis, weakened to a
Category 2 hurricane after crossing Cuba, was churning west of
the Florida Keys with winds near 100 mph on Saturday morning,
said the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Dennis may strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane as it moves
across warmer waters in The Gulf of Mexico, but much will
depend on how organized the storm's eye can become, the
Hurricane Center said.

"It would not take much convection to develop around the
eye for Dennis to make a significant comeback in a short period
of time," the center said.

A projected track still shows the storm moving through the
eastern Gulf Saturday and Sunday, making landfall somewhere
between Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, Sunday night.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for the Florida Keys from
Seven Mile Bridge westward to the Dry Tortugas and for the
northeastern Gulf coast from the Steinhatchee River westward to
the Pearl River.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for Florida's west
coast from the Steinhatchee River southward and from Golden
Beach southward. Also a tropical storm warning is in effect for
southeastern Louisiana.

As of 11 a.m. CDT, the eye of Hurricane Dennis was located
about 135 miles west of Key West, Florida.

The storm was moving northwest at 14 mph with winds about
100 mph, making Dennis a category 2 Hurricane on the
Saffir-Simpson rating scale.

Dennis is the earliest Category 4 hurricane to develop in
the Caribbean, and it is the strongest hurricane to develop
this early in the Atlantic storm season, NHC said.

The NHC will issue its next advisory at 5 p.m. EDT.