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Helene Goes Belly Up

Tropical Storm Helene is no more.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami has downgraded Helene back to a tropical depression — just a mess of rainstorms and wind.

The tropical depression is located about 35 miles north-northeast of Albany, Georgia

Helene is heading northeast at nearly 16 miles-per-hour, with top winds at 35 miles-per-hour, and the weakening system is expected to hold that forward speed and course the next 24 hours.

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All tropical storm warnings posted earlier for what was then Tropical Storm Helene are now discontinued.

Still, small craft from Destin in the Florida Panhandle to the mouth of the Aucilla River — also in Florida — should stay in port until winds and seas subside.

Kim Shively, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said the storm has mostly brought just heavy rain.

There was some minor flooding in Fort Saint Joe, she said, adding that there could also be some more severe weather in Franklin County.

There are no reports so far of any power outages.

Helene caused a hiccup in offshore oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico, with Shell, Unocal and Texaco saying the storm forced them to suspend some production.

Hundreds of offshore workers evacuated to the mainland on Thursday returned to the Gulf on Friday and companies expected to get the lost production back quickly.

The Gulf of Mexico is the United States' biggest producing region for both oil and natural gas, accounting for roughly one fourth of total domestic production of both fuels.

Helene, the eighth named storm of the Atlantic storm season, grew unexpectedly from a tropical depression on Thursday morning.

It was the second big storm to hit Florida in the space of a few days. Tropical Storm Gordon washed over north Florida Sunday night after weakening from a hurricane, but caused minimal damage.

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