Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) — Tropical Storm Fay may emerge over the Atlantic and strengthen into a hurricane within the next two days after sweeping across South Florida.
Fay was almost stationary about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south-southwest of Melbourne, Florida at 9 p.m. local time and the storm’s winds slowed to 60 miles per hour from 65 mph earlier, the National Hurricane Center said in an interim advisory. The storm may start moving later today and turn to the north, it said.
The center issued a hurricane watch for stretches of the Florida and Georgia coast. The storm’s center is forecast to move offshore after midnight New York time near Vero Beach, Florida, about 129 miles north of Miami, said Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at private forecaster AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
“There is a good chance it will become a hurricane,” Kottlowski said by telephone. “There is very warm water in the Gulf Stream current off the coast. If it can get over that, some computer information says it could strengthen to at least a Category 1 hurricane.”
Fay is expected to weaken more before strengthening once it crosses the coast and moves over the Atlantic Ocean, the hurricane center said.
Surface measurements near Lake Okeechobee showed maximum sustained winds of about 65 mph with higher gusts recorded, Kottlowski said. Winds have accelerated from 60 mph when the storm made landfall on the west coast of Florida early today because there is no wind resistance on the lake, he said.
Kottlowski said models show the storm heading over the ocean then turning toward the west and making landfall in Georgia on Aug. 21 or 22. Storms become hurricanes once maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph.
Some models show the storm re-emerging in the Gulf of Mexico, said Brian Wimer, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.
If Fay enters the Gulf, it may then make landfall between New Orleans and the Florida panhandle on Aug. 23, Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at private forecaster Weather Underground Inc., said on his blog.
Fay was forecast to bring as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain to parts of Florida. Storm tides of 1 to 3 feet above normal are possible, as are isolated tornadoes, the hurricane center said.
A tropical storm warning was in effect along parts of Florida’s east coast as well as Lake Okeechobee.
Monroe, Collier, Lee, Hendry and Charlotte counties said on their Web sites that schools are closed today.
The storm killed more than a dozen people in the Caribbean, including several in Haiti, the Associated Press reported.
It killed five people in the Dominican Republic, the country’s Emergency Operations Center said on its Web site.
A man was seriously injured by flying debris in Marathon Key, Florida, while preparing for the storm, according to the Monroe County Web site.
Orange juice prices fell, after yesterday touching the highest this month as the storm approached. Florida is the world’s second-largest orange grower.
Orange juice futures for November delivery fell 3.8 percent to $1.0455 a pound on ICE Futures U.S., the former New York Board of Trade.
About 93,000 homes statewide were without power at 11 a.m. today, according to a Florida Power & Light Co. statement. The company is working with out-of-state personnel to restore service, it said.
The state was investigating about 40 complaints about retailers selling gasoline, batteries, water and other emergency supplies at inflated prices, said Sandi Copes, a spokeswoman for Florida’s attorney-general.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration closed its Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for the day because of the storm, the space agency said in a statement.