Tropical Storm Moves Toward Gulf Coast - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

6/10/05-Miami, FL

Tropical Storm Moves Toward Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Arlene drenched Cuba on Friday and then, strengthening and quickening, moved north toward the U.S. Gulf Coast a region still recovering from last year's hurricanes.

 Forecasters said Arlene, the Atlantic hurricane season's first named tropical storm, could become a weak hurricane before hitting the Deep South late Saturday, with the worst weather east of the storm's center.

It was then expected to travel north along the Mississippi-Alabama line, reaching Tennessee by Sunday evening.

Tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches were posted from Florida to Louisiana for Arlene, which had top sustained winds of 60 mph, up from 45 mph earlier in the day.

That speed was likely to increase, but forecasters said the biggest impact would be heavy rain that arrives ahead of the storm's center.

The downpour that landed on Havana and the rest of western Cuba as Arlene passed the island's westernmost tip early Friday was welcome relief from the island's severe drought.

Flooding was possible, meteorologists said, and some schools were closed, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injury. Southern and central Florida could see tornadoes Friday and more than 7 inches of rain by midday Saturday. Beach erosion was also possible, with coastal storm surge flooding of 2 to 4 feet above normal tide levels. "This is going to be a major rainfall event before and ahead of the storm," said Trisha Wallace, a hurricane center meteorologist.

At 11 a.m. EDT, Arlene's poorly defined center was about 440 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The storm was moving north at about 13 mph, picking up speed from its 10 mph pace earlier in the day, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Wind and rain extended 150 miles north and east of the storm's center. Ahead of the storm, steady rainfall and squalls began to hit Florida on Thursday.

The tropical storm warning stretched along the northern Gulf Coast from Grand Isle, La., to St. Marks, Fla., including Lake Pontchartrain.

 The hurricane watch went from the mouth of the Pearl River to Panama City, Fla. A tropical storm warning was also in effect for the Dry Tortugas, a cluster of islands about 70 miles west of Key West that are a U.S. national park.

A warning means storm conditions are expected within 24 hours. A watch means they are possible, generally within 36 hours.

The Panhandle was battered last year by Ivan, one of the four hurricanes to strike Florida in the space of a few weeks.



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