The Florida Association of Independent Insurance Agents has just issued an alert cautioning members that Hurricane Katrina is eyeing the Panhandle, is already at CAT 2 intensity, and could soon become a CAT 3.
Katrina could become a major hurricane by this afternoon, and could approach CAT 4 within 48 hrs. The risk is major for the entire Gulf coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle–with the greatest risk from near New Orleans to just east of Pensacola.
Katrina is now churning westward over the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane was responsible for at least four deaths on Thursday, three from falling trees and one car accident.
Hurricane Katrina getting stronger as it moves slowly westward away from South Florida according to the 11 a.m. bulletin from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for all of the Florida Keys and Florida Bay from Dry Tortugas northward, and along the Florida Gulf coast from south of Florida City westward and northward to Longboat Key.
Katrina is moving toward the west near 7 mph. and this general motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours.
The tropical storm warning for the southeast Florida coast from Florida City northward has been discontinued. A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area within the next 24 hours.
A tropical storm watch remains in effect for portions of the Florida west coast from north of Longboat Key to Anclote Key. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area… generally within 36 hours.
At 11 a.m. the center of Hurricane Katrina was near latitude 25.1 north, longitude 82.2 west, about 45 miles northwest of Key West and about 75 miles south-southwest of Naples.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 85 miles. During the past hour, a NOAA ship anchored in Key West harbor reported sustained winds of 59 mph with a gust to 86 mph in heavy rain squalls.
Storm surge flooding of 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels can be expected along the west coast of Florida in areas of onshore flow south of Venice and in Florida Bay. Storm surge should continue to decrease this morning along the east coast of Florida.
Katrina is expected to produce additional rainfall of 5 to 8 inches over the Florida Keys and 3 to 5 inches over northwestern Cuba. Isolated storm total amounts of 15 to 20 inches are possible over the Florida Keys. Isolated tornadoes are possible today over extreme southern Florida and the Florida Keys.
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