Hurricane Watch for Fla. Coast

Saturday, September 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) — A hurricane watch was in effect Saturday for much of Florida's west coast as Tropical Storm Gordon picked up strength while moving slowly across the Gulf of Mexico.

Out in the Atlantic, meanwhile, tropical storm-force wind struck Bermuda as Hurricane Florence passed to the north of the island nation. It was not expected to make a direct hit.

Gordon poured 7 to 10 inches of rain on parts of western Cuba early Saturday, and 2 to 5 inches of rain was expected across parts of South Florida and the Keys, forecasters said.

On Friday, the storm caused street flooding in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula resort city of Cancun.

The hurricane watch for Gordon covered a 210-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast, including the Tampa Bay region. It extended from Bonita Beach, which is south of Fort Myers, to the Suwanee River, about 100 miles north of Tampa.

In Cape Canaveral, Fla., NASA began taking precautions to guard agains Gordon. The storm could force NASA to move space shuttle Discovery off its seaside launch pad and into its hangar. Discovery is scheduled to blast off on a space-station construction mission on Oct. 5.

At 7 a.m. EDT, Gordon was about 310 miles west-southwest of Key West. It was moving to the north-northeast at 9 mph and was expected to keep that course and speed on Saturday.

Gordon had top sustained wind of 60 mph. It could become a hurricane by Saturday night, and make landfall late Sunday or early Monday, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Bermuda was struck by 60 mph wind early Saturday, but no damage was reported, the National Hurricane Center said.

At 7 a.m. EDT, Florence was 125 miles north of Bermuda and moving to the northeast at 25 mph. It still packed hurricane-force wind of 75 mph near its center, but that wind was expected to miss the island, forecasters said.

Rip currents associated with Florence were blamed for at least three surf deaths Tuesday in North Carolina.