Hurricane Bill Forms as Tropical Storm Hits U.S.

Claudette makes landfall in Florida

Monday, Aug 17, 2009  |  Updated 11:32 AM EDT
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PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. -- As Tropical Storm Claudette made landfall on the Florida Panhandle near Fort Walton Beach early
Monday, Hurricane Bill became the first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season.

Claudette, the first named storm to hit the U.S. mainland this year, was weakening as it moved farther inland Monday. But even before its arrival, the storm dumped heavy rains in some areas Sunday. It was not expected to cause significant flooding or wind damage.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Bill had maximum sustained winds near 75 mph but was expected to strengthen.

"We do believe (Bill) could become a major hurricane during the next couple of days," said Daniel Brown, a hurricane specialist for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Bill was centered about 1,160 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and moving quickly west-northwest at 22 mph. The first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season ironically shares the same name as National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read.

On the Gulf Coast, Claudette's maximum sustained winds had decreased to near 40 mph. Forecasters said it would probably become a tropical depression later in the day.

The storm was moving northwest near 12 mph on a track expected to take it over the western portion of the Florida Panhandle and into southern Alabama. The storm was expected to move into northeastern Mississippi on Monday night.

Meanwhile, far out in the Pacific, Hurricane Guillermo weakened to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds near 70 mph. Guillermo was centered about 815 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii, and moving west-northwest near 15 mph.

Elsewhere, Tropical Depression Ana was moving quickly across the northeastern Caribbean Sea early Monday. It was expected to make reach the coast of the Dominican Republic later in the day.

Tropical storm watches for Antigua, Barbuda and Montserrat were discontinued. But watches remained in effect for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and several other islands in the area. Ana was forecast to bring 2 to 4 inches of rain.


Despite the storms, a warmer weather pattern called El Nino over the Pacific Ocean is generally expected to damper the formation of tropical storms in the Caribbean and Atlantic this year, said Brian Daly, a meteorologist with the national weather service in Mobile, Ala.


Forecasters revised their Atlantic hurricane season predictions after the first two months of the season passed without any named storms developing.
 

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