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Florida Braces For Tropical Storm

Florida's Atlantic coast braced for the arrival of a tropical storm, two weeks after Hurricane Katrina first hit the state.

Tropical Storm Ophelia threatened to dump heavy rains, prompting tropical storm warnings along a 100-mile stretch from Sebastian Inlet to Flagler Beach.

"It's been kicking up a very rough surf, all across and all along the southeast coastline. There are 10-15 foot waves, we have rip currents, we may even see some beach erosion up and down the southeast coastline," said CBS News Meteorologist George Cullen.

Up to 5 inches were expected over the next few days from central Florida to southeastern Georgia, with some isolated areas possibly getting 8 inches.

The rain was expected to hit areas affected by last year's Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne. Much of the region has recovered but some homes remain covered in blue tarps as owners await new roofs.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Ophelia had top sustained winds of about 45 mph and was centered about 80 miles east of Cape Canaveral. It was drifting north-northwest at about 7 mph.

Ophelia's forecast appeared to keep it offshore through the weekend, though forecasters warned its path remained uncertain.

"It's been moving very erratically, and it may just sit out there for the next couple of days, so it's going to be a tease for the southeast coastline, although it will remain very windy," said Cullen.

Two other storms were out in the open ocean Wednesday as the busy hurricane season continued. Tropical Storm Nate was expected to strengthen south of Bermuda, while Hurricane Maria weakened to a tropical storm in the cooler waters of the North Atlantic.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Nate, the 14th named storm of the season, was centered about 260 miles south-southwest of Bermuda with top sustained winds of about 70 mph — practically the same as at 5 a.m. "Nate has been meandering and is nearly stationary," the National Hurricane Center advisory said.

"It is expected to move toward the northeast, and actually could come very close to the island of Bermuda, later Thursday night into early Friday, as a hurricane," said Cullen.

"Perhaps by the end of the work week it could be posing a threat to Bermuda, but not the U.S.," National Hurricane Center forecaster Stacy Stewart said.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Maria was centered 705 miles east-northeast of Bermuda and was forecast to weaken further. Winds were 65 mph, forecasters said. No 8 a.m. advisory was issued.

Maria was the fifth hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season. The season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Peak storm activity typically occurs from the end of August through mid-September.

Hurricane Katrina hit South Florida on Aug. 25, killing 11 people and leaving hundreds of thousands without power, before striking the Gulf Coast last week.

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