Tropical Storm Gamma kills two in Central America, could threaten South Florida |

Tropical Storm Gamma kills two in Central America, could threaten South Florida

Associated Press

MIAMI – Tropical Storm Gamma drifted north along the coasts of Belize and Honduras on Saturday and was likely to turn onto a path that could threaten South Florida this coming week, but it was not expected to gain much strength.The storm already had caused flooding and landslides in Honduras that killed at least two people and prompted the government to evacuate hundreds from coastal towns.Gamma, the 24th storm of the busiest hurricane season on record, had top sustained wind near 45 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in Miami.Gamma was expected to speed up and turn northeast on Sunday, sending it across the northeastern Caribbean and toward western Cuba, meteorologists said. On that forecast path, Gamma would cross Cuba and approach the Florida Keys island chain on Monday.That path seems similar to the one taken by Hurricane Wilma, which tore across the southern portion of the state on Oct. 24, killing 21 people and causing widespread damage.However, the storm was expected to strengthen only slightly and the hurricane center said its top sustained wind speed would likely remain near 50 to 55 mph – below the 74 mph threshold for a hurricane.”We don’t foresee any significant changes in the environment throughout the evolution of this system,” said Navy forecaster Dave Roberts. “This is a completely different situation compared to Wilma” in terms of its intensity, he said.Tropical storm warnings were in effect Saturday for the north coast of Belize and the Bay Islands of Honduras. Mexico issued a tropical storm watch for the eastern Yucatan Peninsula, which was hit hard last month by Hurricane Wilma. Six to 15 inches of rain was possible.Two people were missing in Belize in a small plane belonging to the exclusive Blancaneaux Lodge resort, owned by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Five fisherman were missing after their boat capsized.At 1 p.m. EST, the hurricane center said Gamma was centered about 220 miles east-southeast of Belize City, Belize, and 315 miles south-southeast of Tulum, Mexico. It was drifting toward the north and showing signs of becoming less organized.Florida has been pummeled by eight hurricanes and three tropical storms in the past 15 months. Insured losses from this year’s storms are estimated at more than $10 billion in Florida, according to the state Department of Financial Services.Gamma extended the Atlantic’s record-breaking storm season. The previous record of 21 named storms had stood since 1933 and, for the first time, officials had to turn to the Greek alphabet for names.—On the Net:National Hurricane Center:

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