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Tropical Storm Isaac emerges, could threaten Florida

By Ken Kaye, Sun Sentinel –

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tropical Storm Isaac emerged in the Atlantic on Tuesday afternoon, and it’s one Florida needs to keep an eye on.

Over the next five days, the system is projected to aim into the Caribbean, strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane and threaten Hispaniola and Cuba.

From there, it is expected to turn north, possibly toward the Gulf of Mexico, Florida or the Bahamas.

If it were to approach Florida, much of the state could start feeling its fringes as early as Sunday.

At 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday, the ninth named storm of the season was about 500 miles east of Guadeloupe, moving west at 17 mph with sustained winds of 40 mph. Its tropical force winds extend 45 miles from its core.

For now, Isaac is being guided west by a strong area of high pressure. That area is expected to weaken in about three days and allow the system to turn northwest or north, senior hurricane specialist Jack Beven said.

The timing of that turn will determine whether Florida faces a threat — and what part of the state is most at risk. Beven noted that the five-day forecast track error is about 255 miles.

Of some consolation to the state: If Isaac plows over Cuba as forecast, it likely would be weakened by the interaction with land.

Further, the overall forecast already has been reduced — the system previously had been forecast to reach Category 2 status — because of its struggle against dry air, Beven said.

According to Jeff Masters, chief meteorologist of Weather Underground, some models aim the system into the Gulf of Mexico and curve it back toward Florida next week.

Under that scenario, the storm could end up being a threat to Tampa during the Republican National Convention, Aug. 27-30, he said.

The National Hurricane Center also is monitoring a disturbance in the eastern Atlantic, giving it a high chance of developing. Models indicate that system will trek northwest over the next five days.

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