Tropical Storm Fay's Land-Hugging Path Kept It Weak

August 21, 2008

Tropical storm Fay is likely to be remembered as a strange, soggy, stubborn storm that drenched much of Florida during its leisurely ramble across the peninsula this week.

With its third landfall late this morning, Fay's rains have triggered heavy flooding that has blocked roads and forced evacuations, prompting Florida Governor Charlie Crist to declare a state of emergency for the entire state.

But the storm's trek near and over land is what kept it from becoming a very intense hurricane that could have inflicted extreme damage to the region, experts say.

All of the ingredients were in place to stoke a monster, including very warm waters in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico and minimal upper-level winds.

"This thing had real potential to be a big, big storm," said Keith Blackwell, a meteorologist at the University of South Alabama's Coastal Weather Research Center in Mobile. Fay easily could have become a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, he added.

Instead Fay has meandered slowly over the Florida Peninsula, virtually stalling in some places while staying just below hurricane strength.

Island Hopping

As of this morning, the center of the storm sat offshore from Daytona Beach, allowing Fay to continue dumping heavy rains across northeastern Florida.

Governor Crist announced at a morning news conference that parts of Florida's east coast have experienced "historical rainfall," including more than 25 inches (63.5 centimeters) near the town of Melbourne.

When Fay formed on August 16, it skimmed near land before reaching the Florida Peninsula.

"It has tried to hit just about every piece of land on its way to Florida," Blackwell said.

"It's had a very difficult time trying to organize, particularly in the Caribbean, when it moved directly across Haiti and brushed a portion of eastern Cuba." (See a map of the region.)

Continued on Next Page >>


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