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New tropical storm could threaten FL

Early predictions suggest Matthew could strengthen and track into the Gulf.

MIAMI | September 23, 2010

"Folks in Florida need to be paying attention to it. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in the forecast now."

—Dennis Feltgen, National Hurricane Center

Tropical Storm Matthew formed over the south-central Caribbean Sea on late Thursday afternoon and is expected to strengthen further, forecasters said.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, Matthew was located about 700 kilometers (435 miles) east of Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua. It was moving toward the west near 26 kilometers (16 miles) per hour. "This general motion is expected to continue for the next 48 hours," said forecaster Stacy Stewart at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Stewart said the center of Matthew is expected to be near the Nicaragua-Honduras border by late Friday or early Saturday morning, and may strengthen into a category one hurricane around that time.

On Sunday, forecasters are suggesting the hurricane may move northeast and that has some remembering Hurricane Wilma which took a similar track in October 2005, crossing into Florida near Naples and causing nearly $17 billion in damage in the southeastern part of the state.

But according to Dennis Feltgen of the NHC, it is way too early to know where or if Matthew will go. "Folks in Florida need to be paying attention to it. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in the forecast now."

As of Thursday afternoon, Matthew's maximum sustained winds were near 65 kilometers (40 miles) per hour, with higher gusts.

Meanwhile, forecasters have issued a hurricane watch from Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua to Limon in Honduras, which includes offshore islands. A tropical storm warning has also been issued for the same region.

"A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area," Stewart said. "A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous."

(Portions of this story are Copyright 2010 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.)

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