It’s now apparent that Charley has become the season’s first full-blown hurricane, packing sustained winds of 105 mph (168 km/hr) with higher gusts. The storm hit Cuba near the port of Batabano, south of Havana, around midnight. Local authorities have warned people to take shelter amid reports of some damage caused by the wind and extremely high tides that have caused local flooding in low lying areas.
As the eye of the storm moves over Cuba, Charley appears to be continuing on course towards the West Coast of Florida. The National Hurricane Center in Miami has issued a hurricane warning extending from the Florida Keys North to the mouth of the Suwannee River. According to the NHC’s projections Charley could come ashore in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area around 8:00 p.m. EDT tonight.
The BBC quoted Florida Governor Jeb Bush as stating: “This has the potential of being the one we’ve all been warning about. It’s going to cut a swathe through the state that’s going to impact millions of people.”
Forewarned is forearmed. Numerous state, federal and private organizations, including a number of insurers, have issued bulletins warning Florida residents of Charley’s approach and of the precautions they should take to minimize losses (See related articles in National and Southeast sections).
The latest NHC bulletin classifies Charley as a category two hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, but it also said “some strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours…and Charley is forecast to be a major hurricane as it approaches the Florida West Coast. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 30 miles… 45 km. from the center…and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 125 miles…205 km.”
The NHC warned that “storm surge flooding of 10 to 13 feet is also possible near and south of where the center crosses the Florida West Coast. Rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches are likely in association with Charley. These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods. Isolated tornadoes are possible across parts of the Southern Florida peninsula and the Florida Keys tonight.”
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