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Tropical Storms Bonnie and Charley: Update
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Posted by:Aug 10th 2004, 12:00:37 pm
KimberlyTropical storms Bonnie and Charley grow stronger and threaten land

By MARTIN MERZER
mmerzer@herald.com

Two tropical storms gathered strength from warm tropical water today as they took aim at populated areas.

Tropical Storm Bonnie, a very small system, seemed destined to strike northwest Florida on Thursday. Newly named Tropical Storm Charley, a much larger system, threatened Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, western Cuba and unknown points to the north.

Forecasters said Bonnie grew slightly stronger overnight in the Gulf of Mexico, though it remained a compact system, which complicated the always difficult task of predicting its future strength.

''Small tropical cyclones such as Bonnie are prone to rapid changes in intensity, either up or down,'' said forecaster James Franklin of the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County.

He was inclined to believe that Bonnie, fueled by a patch of unusually warm Gulf water, would intensify into a hurricane early Thursday but could lose some potency just before it makes landfall on the upper Florida coast.

Long-range forecasts -- subject to large margins of error -- brought the center of Bonnie ashore near Panama City, Fla., around noon Thursday. That path could carry many of the worst squalls over Tallahassee, though the predicted trajectory easily could change during the next several days.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the center of Tropical Storm Bonnie was located near latitude 23.6 north, longitude 90.1 west or about 390 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Bonnie was moving toward the west-northwest at 8 mph. A reduction in forward speed and a turn to the north was expected. Maximum sustained winds were 50 mph.

Far to the southeast, a tropical depression was upgraded this morning to tropical storm status. Called Charley, the sprawling system was expected to pass very close Wednesday to Jamaica, where a tropical storm watch was likely to be posted later today.

The Cayman Islands also were in Charley's predicted path, as was the western end of Cuba. Charley could become a hurricane in the vicinity of those islands, forecasters said.

The long-range forecast then carried Charley into the Gulf of Mexico, though forecasters said the system could head farther west and strike Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the center of Tropical Storm Charley was located near latitude 13.0 north, longitude 66.3 west or about 450 miles south-southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Charley was moving toward the west-northwest at 24 mph and was expected to remain on that path. Maximum sustained winds were 40 mph.

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