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Florida Spared Deluge From Tropical Storm

September 7, 2003

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (AP) _ Most of Florida was spared heavy rain forecasters had believed Tropical Storm Henri would bring Saturday, as the system weakened into a tropical depression and moved quickly across the peninsula.

Rainfall totals in most areas affected by Henri fell considerably short of the 6 to 12 inches forecasters said were coming to large portions of the state.

``It didn’t dump as much rain as we thought it might,″ said hurricane specialist Jack Beven of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. ``A lot of the rain stayed out in the Gulf and when the depression started moving, it moved much faster than we thought it would.″

Out in the Atlantic, meanwhile, Bermuda islanders awoke to streets littered with tree limbs and overturned vehicles in the wake of Hurricane Fabian, and rapidly strengthening Tropical Storm Isabel formed west of the Cape Verde Islands.

Isabel, the ninth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, had maximum sustained winds near 60 mph Saturday night and was expected to continue strengthening as it moved west at about 10 mph. At 11 p.m. EDT, Isabel was centered about 770 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands and could become a hurricane by Sunday, Beven said.

``It’s something to keep an eye on. It’s a long way away,″ Beven said. ``We’ll just have to watch and see. It’s a large system, it’s in a favorable environment for development.″

At 11 p.m. EDT, the center of the tropical depression that had been Henri was 190 miles south-southeast of Charleston, S.C. The storm, which was beginning to regain strength over Atlantic waters, could become a tropical storm again Sunday, forecasters said. Its sustained winds were measured at 35 mph, below the 39 mph minimum threshold for tropical storm status.

Florida’s Gulf Coast had only scattered reports of streets being covered with a few inches of water. There were some reports of homes being flooded, but Charlotte County officials said most of that water was splashing into homes as cars navigated flooded streets.

The storm was responsible for at least two injuries Friday. A Lee County man, whose name and condition were not released, was struck by lightning. A Pinellas Park man, identified by Tampa police as Edgardo Pulido, 55, lost control of his hydroplaning pickup on rainslicked Interstate 275 in Tampa and crashed into a concrete wall. Pulido was in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital, officials said.


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