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Ophelia Regains Hurricane Strength

Tropical Storm Ophelia regained hurricane strength Friday on a course expected to swing toward the Atlantic Coast, and forecasters urged residents from northern Florida to the Carolinas keep close watch on its path over the next few days.

The Category 1 storm had sustained winds of 75 mph Friday night. It was moving northeast at near 9 mph and was expected to continue on that track through Saturday.

Forecasters said Ophelia has been hard to predict. It could go out to sea, but it may also head anywhere from north Florida to North Carolina.

"Most of our best indicators suggest that it will move back to the west and approach the southeast United States coast. However, it is much to soon to know if landfall along the southeast coast will occur," said Jamie Rhome, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center.

Along the coast, many were anticipating the storm.

George Curovic, the general manager of Manny's, said his restaurant drew big crowds through last year's season because it was one of few in the Flagler Beach area with power. This time is different, he said.

"Now they're getting away. I think they've seen too much damage, too much death," Curovic said. "All it takes is one tidal wave to wipe this place out."

Florida has been hit by two hurricanes this year and six in the past 13 months. Many residents have already stocked up on batteries, water and nonperishable food.

"These people around here are veterans. They are already prepared," said Rick Storm, a clerk at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Merritt Island. "They are fully stocked and ready to go."

At 11 p.m. EDT, Ophelia was centered about 255 miles east-northeast of Daytona Beach and about 240 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C.

Even as it lingered offshore, Ophelia sent waves crashing onto beaches and stirred up strong wind gusts. Officials shut down a stretch of coastal road in Flagler County so transportation workers could shore it up with sand and boulders. Officials at NASA were also keeping an eye on Ophelia as well.

Two other tropical storms, Nate and Maria, posed no threat to land as they weakened moving into cooler waters of the north Atlantic.

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

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