NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Tropical Storm Ophelia was drifting away from Florida's northeast coast Friday, but that may not be the end of it for the peninsula, Georgia or the Carolinas.
Though Ophelia's top sustained winds had dropped to 65 mph, some forecast models showed it turning back toward land as a hurricane sometime next week.
"By no means should people take this short-term motion as being let off the hook here," National Hurricane Center meteorologist Jamie Rhome said. "I don't want people to say, 'Whew this one's going out to sea.' There's still a possibility that it could loop back."
Ophelia was nearly stationary about 115 miles east of Daytona Beach. It briefly had been upgraded to a hurricane Thursday when its winds reached 75 mph - 1 mph over the hurricane threshold.
A tropical storm warning remained in effect for a 120-mile stretch of the Atlantic coast from Sebastian Inlet north to Flagler Beach, meaning tropical force winds of at least 39 mph are expected within the next day.
Florida has been struck by two hurricanes this year and six in 13 months. Many residents who learned from previous experiences have 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."
Even as it lingered offshore, Ophelia sent waves crashing onto beaches and stirred up winds. Officials shut down a stretch of coastal road in Flagler County so transportation workers could shore it up with sand and boulders.
"The storm is eating up our dunes," county communications manager Carl Laundrie said. "It has cut up right next to the road."
Officials at NASA were also keeping an eye on Ophelia. Last summer, the space agency's launch and landing site took the brunt of three hurricanes, which punched big holes into the massive building where shuttles are attached to their booster rockets and fuel tanks.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Hurricane Nate pulled away from Bermuda, and Tropical Storm Maria was weakening in the north Atlantic. Neither posed a threat to land.
The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Peak storm activity typically occurs from the end of August through mid-September.
(c) 2005 Associated Press
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