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Fla. awaits season's first named storm


ORLANDO, Fla. - Floridians, many of them still struggling with the legacy of last year's devastating hurricane season, were wary yesterday, despite assurances from weather forecasters that the first named storm of the Atlantic season was unlikely to be more than a rainmaker.

Arlene, packing sustained winds of 40 mph, was expected to produce rain in some areas as it entered the Gulf of Mexico today and headed toward the Florida Panhandle or Louisiana.

"There probably won't be a need for any tropical storm watches or warnings in Central Florida," said Richard Knabb, a forecaster with the National Hurricane Center west of Miami. "But the storm's outer bands could produce some gusty winds, and residents should pay close attention to their local weather service for potential rainfall and flash flooding."

Last year's first named storm, Alex, didn't arrive until August. However, experts said it's not all that unusual to see a storm form in early June.

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