Source Pravda.Ru

Ophelia strengthens into hurricane and threatens Florida

Ophelia reached hurricane status Thursday evening and now poses a possible threat to the Sunshine State.

Forecasters are warning that the storm night make a loop out in the Atlantic and head for the Florida coast rather than heading harmlessly out to sea.

At 2 a.m. ET Friday, the center of Ophelia was 80 miles east-northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and higher gusts, making it a minimal Category 1 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center. It became the seventh hurricane of the busy 2005 Atlantic season.

Early Friday, forecasters said the storm had drifted northward as expected and would continue drifting to the northeast during the day. Ophelia may have begun to weaken slightly, forecasters said, although some slow strengthening was expected, reports CNN.

According to Guardian, downpours from earlier storms had caused flooding in the county, raising anxiety levels about the effects of more rain.

Volusia County schools were closed Thursday but would reopen Friday.

Ophelia is the 15th named storm of the season. At 2 p.m. EDT, its top sustained winds were 65 mph, but it remained nearly stationary. Forecasters predict it should turn out into the Atlantic over the next few days, but that wasn't a certainty.

A tropical storm warning, meaning winds exceeding 39 mph are possible within 24 hours, was posted for Florida's east coast from Cocoa Beach to Flagler Beach. A tropical storm watch was in effect from Flagler Beach to Fernandina Beach. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 36 hours.

Florida has been hit by six hurricanes in the past 13 months.