Paula to dampen the Dry Tortugas

Hurricane Paula, a very small and now minimal Cat. 1 hurricane, is moving north of western Cuba and threatening extreme South Florida with heavy rain. A Tropical Storm Watch is posted now for the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas islands. Showers and thunderstorms are expected in Key West.

But the storm is expected to curve east and then southeast, staying mainly over the island of Cuba. A Hurricane Warning is up for portions of western Cuba, and a Tropical Storm Warning is posted for Havana.

Forecasters say Paula is moving to the northeast at 7 mph, with top sustained winds of 75 mph. As it interacts with the island and encounters more unfavorable winds, it is expected to weaken, becoming a tropical storm later Thursday, and a tropical depression by the weekend.

UPDATE, 11:00 AM: Paula has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Paula is an unusually small hurricane, with hurricane force winds extending barely 10 miles from its center. Tropical storm winds are measurable only 50 miles out. But it is still a soaker, with 3 to 6 inches of rain forecast for portions of Cuba, and some locations told to expect as much as 10 inches, bringing the danger of flash floods and mudslides. A storm surge is expected to push high tides 2 to 4 feet above normal, with large waves.

Here is the latest advisory for Paula. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

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