FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Taking aim on South Florida yesterday, Tropical Storm Katrina threatened to build into an 80-mph hurricane, unleash torrential rains and cause severe flooding.
Landfall is projected for about 11 a.m. tomorrow, and the region should begin feeling the storm's effects this morning. By Sunday, it is expected to have dumped 6 to 12 inches of rain, with up to 20 inches in some areas.
A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning have been issued from Vero Beach to Florida City, and Broward County emergency managers called for a voluntary evacuation of mobile homes and the barrier islands.
Because the storm is moving slowly through warm waters, it could grow into a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 96 mph or higher, said Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
"We tell people to be prepared for one category stronger than forecast because of the uncertainties in our intensity predictions," he said. "And the storm looks like it's developing."
Hurricane officials warned that the 140-mile-wide storm could cause extensive damage. Conditions should steadily deteriorate today as bands of rain pass through, and winds should increase to 40 mph or higher by this afternoon, Lushine said.
By midnight tonight, the winds should whip up to more than 60 mph. The heaviest rains and strongest winds should arrive early tomorrow morning as the core of the storm approaches the coast.
Tony Carper, director of emergency management in Broward County, said a mandatory evacuation might be ordered if the storm grows strong enough.
"At this point, we need to prepare ourselves for a system that will drop a lot of rain on us in the next 24, 48 or even 72 hours," he said.
After crossing South Florida, the system is expected to retain tropical storm strength until reaching the Gulf of Mexico, then return to hurricane strength. It could eventually hit Louisiana, Alabama or the Florida Panhandle.
Katrina is the 11th named storm to form in a season of unprecedented early activity. Never before had 11 named storms formed by Aug. 24, said Colin McAdie, a hurricane center research meteorologist.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.