Hurricane Debby Moving Toward Fla.

Wednesday, August 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — In what could be the calm between the storms, Hurricane Debby dealt Puerto Rico and other islands a glancing blow and headed over open warm waters that could feed its growth on a path toward the Bahamas and Florida.

The storm, dubbed ``Little Debby'' so far, should increase its wind speeds to 105 mph by an expected Friday approach southeast of Miami, said Krissy Williams, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

By 8 a.m. Wednesday, Debby was about 140 miles southeast of the Bahamas' Grand Turk Island and charging west at 18 mph. It was barely strong enough to be called a hurricane, with sustained wind of 75 mph,

The Bahamas began sending soldiers to several southern islands on Tuesday and planned to send more to other islands Wednesday to prepare for the storm.

In Florida, emergency officials urged southern residents to begin paying close attention to weather reports. ``We're like everybody else,'' said Elizabeth Hirst, spokeswoman for Gov. Jeb Bush. ``In the wait-and-see mode.''

Hurricane warnings were posted for the Turks and Caicos, the southeastern and central Bahamas and the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Hurricane watches were in effect for the northern parts of the Bahamas, Haiti and Cuba.

Forecasters may post a hurricane watch in South Florida on Wednesday, Williams said.

As a relatively minor hurricane on Tuesday, Debby brought some rain and little apparent damage to the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and a number of small islands like Antigua and Anguilla.

``This storm was quite confusing in terms of all the various changes it made,'' Gene Walker, emergency response leader in the Virgin Islands, said Tuesday. ``We were supposed to have had heavy rainfall some 10 to 12 inches of rain, and today that was changed to 5 inches.''

The only storm-related death was a San Juan man who slipped from his roof while trying to dismantle an antenna.

In Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 4 million people, there was relief as Debby's eye passed just to the north. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands planned to reopen schools and government offices Wednesday, and flights were expected to resume.

``We believe the conditions are adequate to return to normalcy,'' Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello said Tuesday.

Some tourists scrambled to board flights to the U.S. mainland earlier Tuesday, but others were more relaxed.

``I hope it's over soon, because I need a suntan by Sunday,'' said Diana Chiquito of New York City, sunbathing on San Juan's Condado beach, where many surfers enjoyed the higher waves.

In Dutch St. Maarten, battered in recent years by a series of hurricanes, officials reported no damage and reopened the airport.

``We've fared well. I'm looking outside at my garden, which was devastated by Hurricane Lenny last year, and it still has flowers,'' said Glen Holm, director of the tourism bureau on the Dutch island of Saba near St. Maarten.

Still churning in the northern Atlantic was Hurricane Alberto, the longest-lived August tropical storm on record. Alberto, which formed Aug. 4, was moving at 20 mph hundreds of miles east of Newfoundland.


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