Tropical Storm Katrina formed Wednesday morning in the Bahamas and could reach hurricane strength before hitting the coast of Florida later this week
A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch were posted for a 150-mile (241-kilometer) stretch of Florida's southeast coast from Florida City north to Vero Beach, meaning tropical storm conditions were likely by late Thursday. Katrina could reach hurricane strength, with sustained winds blowing at 74 mph (119 km/h), before making landfall Thursday, the hurricane center said. The storm is expected to cross the state and head into the Gulf of Mexico, and could drop a foot (0.3 meters) or more of rain in places. Crews had started lowering water levels in a 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometer) network of drainage canals, which drain into the ocean. The storm runoff system is still above normal levels since heavy rainfall that started with last year's four hurricanes, although it should be able to contain Katrina's rain. Wednesday is the 13th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew's landfall in southern Miami-Dade County. The most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history virtually wiped out the cities of Homestead and Florida City, which have since been rebuilt. The Florida Panhandle was hit by Tropical Storm Cindy and Hurricane Dennis earlier this year. The four hurricanes that hit the state last year caused $23 billion (Ђ18.8 billion) in insured wind damage across the country but actual damage was about double that, AP reports.