, August 17, 2009 (ENS) - The first named storm of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season to make landfall in the United States struck the Florida Panhandle early this morning. Tropical Storm Claudette, with maximum sustained winds of about 50 miles per hour, came ashore near Panama City, moving northwest at 12 mph. Claudette is expected to cross the panhandle and move into southern Alabama later today.
The National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm warning for coastal communities of the panhandle and the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, forecasting six inches of rainfall for the Florida Panhandle, central and southern Alabama and southwestern Georgia, with some locations getting as much as 10 inches.
Power lines may be knocked out and flooding is possible, the advisory said. A Tropical Storm Warning remains in effect along coastal counties from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River.
Wind speeds of Tropical Storm Claudette mapped through Friday August 21. The purple area shows the most intense winds, the yellow and green areas show slower winds. (Image courtesy National Hurricane Center)
A storm surge of five feet is forecast for areas along the coast, the Hurricane Center said. The storm tide is expected to produced maximum water levels of three to five feet above ground level along parts of the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend region of Florida.
The Florida state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee activated to a Level 2, partial activation as of 2 p.m. Sunday in support of the counties that will be impacted by Tropical Storm Claudette.
The Florida Park Service is taking steps to ensure the safety of guests at several campgrounds in the path of the storm.
In compliance with the Florida Park Service Emergency Action Plans, St. Andrews State Park, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park and St. George Island State Park are closing their campgrounds and park personnel have evacuated all overnight visitors. Overnight use of these parks will remain closed until further notice.
Another storm that may hit much harder than Claudette is nearing hurricane strength in the central Atlantic Ocean.
Tropical Storm Bill formed late Saturday over the central Atlantic, heading toward the Caribbean. Bill is forecast to become a hurricane sometime Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Bill's winds have strengthened to about 70 mph, the center said in its advisory at 11 pm Miami time. The storm is moving west-northwest about 20 mph, and is expected to continue in that direction for the next day or two.
Bill was about 1,320 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, which encompass the U.S. Virgin and British Virgin Islands, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.
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