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Hurrican Bonnie Watch...

Florida watches Bonnie strengthen
Updated Saturday, Aug. 22 at 11:10 a.m.

Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer and wire reports

Tropical Storm Bonnie intensified to hurricane strength early Saturday and bore down on the Bahamas, as Florida prepared for the possibility of being hit.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm could strike the East Coast of the United States within the next two days. Bonnie now appears unlikely to hit southeast Florida, although forecasters don't rule out the possibility.

At 11 a.m., maximum sustained winds had increased to 85 mph with higher gusts, according to the National Weather Service.

Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours and Bonnie could eventually reach category three on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

Forecasters are predicting a gradual turn to the northwest with a decrease in forward speed. On this track, the center of Bonnie will pass close and to the north of the southeastern and central Bahamas.

"Bonnie could threaten the East Coast of the United States ... within the next few days,'' hurricane specialist Ed Rappaport of the National Hurricane Center said early Saturday of the first hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season.

"Residents along the coast should continue to monitor the progress of Bonnie.''

Bonnie is a large storm with hurricane force winds extending outward up to 45 miles from the center and tropical-storm force winds extending outward up to 200 miles to the north of the center and about 100 miles to the south of the center. That means if it strikes land, its path of destruction will be larger.

At 11 a.m. EDT Saturday, the storm was centered near 22.7 north latitude, 70.6 west longitude, about 95 miles north-northeast of Turk Island. Bonnie was moving west-northwest at 15 mph and this motion was expected to continue Sunday.

The hurricane threshold, crossed after midnight, is 74 mph.

The Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern and central Bahamas were under a hurricane warning Saturday. The government of the Bahamas issued a hurricane watch for the northwest Bahamas, the islands north and west of Cat Island and Great Exuma.

Bonnie's threat to the United States depended on whether the storm turns north as forecasters expect, and when that happens.

Taking no chances, emergency management officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties checked stockpiles of food and medical supplies and reviewed hurricane plans.

"It looks like this system is going to come straight at us for the next 36 hours, and it looks like a very strong storm," said Tony Carper, Broward County's emergency management director. "It's pretty difficult to watch a strong storm coming right at you and not take some action."

* copied from Digital City So. Fla.

** Later on today I will be posting some "Post Hurricane Andrew" pictures as a reminder of what we don't want to l^oo^k like. I for one consider myself very luck to have suffered minimal damage from Andrew - as a lucky one I volunteered along with friends and worked very hard with the Hurricane Relief teams for months afterwards caring for victims of the devastation.

Lets Pray We All Are Spared the raging wrath of Mother Nature's creation called "Hurricane 98"

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