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Tropical Storm Florence poised to become hurricane in Atlantic

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published September 7, 2006


MIAMI - Tropical Storm Florence gained strength in the open Atlantic on Wednesday and could become a hurricane by the weekend, but forecasters said it was too soon to tell if it would reach the United States.

Florence had sustained wind near 50 mph Wednesday afternoon, over the 39 mph threshold for a tropical storm. The minimum for a hurricane is 74 mph.

Forecasters have said the storm could strengthen to a hurricane as early as today.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 700 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, or about 1,160 miles southeast of Bermuda, and was moving toward the west-northwest at about 10 mph.

Tropical storm force wind extended up to 260 miles from its center.

"The concern would be Bermuda at this point, how close the destructive force winds will move toward it," said Dave Roberts, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center.

Florence follows on the heels of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which formed Aug. 25 over the southern Caribbean and was briefly the season's first hurricane before weakening and hitting Florida and North Carolina last week as a tropical storm.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season has not been as rough as initially feared. The National Hurricane Center lowered its forecast in August to between 12 and 15 named storms and seven to nine hurricanes.

Two boys missing after wandering near river swollen by Ernesto

DANBURY, N.C. - Two young brothers were missing Wednesday from a home near a fast-moving river swollen by Tropical Storm Ernesto.

In northwest North Carolina, where heavy rain fell after Ernesto moved through the state last week, search crews were looking for the two missing boys, ages 3 and 4, after they were believed to have wandered away from their grandparents' home. Search dogs tracked the boys' scent to the nearby Dan River.

Jacob White, 3, and Jeffrey White Jr., 4, were reported missing Tuesday afternoon, said Monty Stevens, director of Stokes County Emergency Medical Services. Danbury is about 120 miles west of Raleigh.

At least nine deaths in the United States were blamed on Ernesto, which also killed two people in Haiti and blacked out thousands of homes and businesses from North Carolina to New York.

[Last modified September 7, 2006, 01:28:22]


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