September 8, 2005

Ophelia strengthens into hurricane off Florida

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI, Sept 8 - Tropical Storm Ophelia strengthened into a
hurricane as it sat off Florida's Atlantic Coast on Thursday
and forecasters said that if it ever moved, it would be in

Ophelia had top winds of 75 mph (120 kph), up from 50 mph
(80 kph) a day earlier and just over the 74-mph (118-kph)
threshold for hurricane status, the National Hurricane Center

At 5 p.m. (2100 GMT), Ophelia's center was about 70 miles

east-northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It had barely moved in two days and was expected to begin
drifting northeast on Friday, initially edging away from the
U.S. coast.

But Ophelia was expected to circle back to the west toward
the United States next week, potentially striking anywhere from
Florida to North Carolina.

Tropical storm warnings, alerting residents that the outer
edges of the hurricane could hit them within 24 hours, were
posted for a 120-mile (190-km) stretch of Florida's Atlantic
coast from Sebastian Inlet to Flagler Beach.

Forecasters said Ophelia could dump 1 to 5 inches of rain
on parts of central and north Florida and southeast Georgia,
and trigger dangerous rip tides all along the southeastern
coast of the United States.

Some of Ophelia's outer squalls lashed northeast Florida on
Thursday. The storm churned up waves that pummeled swimmers and
ate away at beaches already eroded by some of the six
hurricanes that have crisscrossed the state in the last 13

"These are 10- to 12-foot (3- to 4-meter) waves. They can
literally pile-drive you into the bottom," said Scott
Petersohn, spokesman for the Volusia County Beach Patrol in
Daytona Beach.

"The longer it sits nearly stationary, the more problems
it's going to cause in the long run."

In the mid-Atlantic, Hurricane Nate dodged south of
Bermuda, sparing the British colony the brunt of its 85-mph
(140-kph) winds. It was moving northeast over open seas and was
only a threat to ships.

Farther north in the Atlantic, the chilly waters were
expected to squelch Hurricane Maria's tropical circulation and
break it apart by Friday.