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 » 2006 Forecast  | Saffir-Simpson scale  |  Your stories

Ophelia threatens Florida

Tropical storm heads toward state's eastern coast

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An infrared satellite image shows the storm at 3:15 a.m. ET Wednesday.

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(CNN) -- Freshly named Tropical Storm Ophelia was moving slowly toward the northeastern Atlantic coast of Florida on Wednesday, forecasters said, threatening to drench the state with up to 8 inches of rain in some areas.

Ophelia intensified to a tropical storm Wednesday, with maximum sustained winds of near 40 mph (64 kph) and higher gusts. As of 5 a.m. ET Wednesday, the storm's center was about 105 miles (169 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Moving north-northwest at near 8 mph (13 kph), it was expected to continue in that direction, slow down and strengthen slightly within the next 24 hours.

Tropical storm warnings are posted from Sebastian Inlet northward to Flagler Beach, Florida, said the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The warning means tropical storm conditions, including winds of at least 39 mph (62 kph), are expected in the area within the next 24 hours.

A tropical storm watch, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 36 hours, was in effect from north of Flagler Beach to Fernandina Beach, forecasters said.

Rainfall of 3 to 5 inches with isolated amounts of up to 8 inches are expected across portions of central and northern Florida and southeastern Georgia. In addition, dangerous surf conditions and rip currents will be possible along the Southeastern U.S. coast from the Carolinas southward to Florida.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Nate -- which initially was forecast to pose no threat to land -- is on track to pass near or just south of Bermuda this week, forecasters said Wednesday.

The Bermuda Weather Service has issued a tropical storm watch for the Atlantic island. Nate's maximum sustained winds were near 70 mph (113 kph) with higher gusts Wednesday -- just shy of hurricane force.

At 5 a.m. Wednesday, the center of the storm was about 260 miles (418 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda. Moving toward the northwest at about 2 mph (3 kph), it was expected to turn toward the north or north-northeast later Wednesday and Thursday.

The storm was expected to strengthen during the next 24 hours, and Nate could become a hurricane later Wednesday, forecasters said.

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