Emily expected to hit U.S. land on Tuesday Florida has hope of being spared

August 29, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

MIAMI -- The unpredictability of nature was on full display yesterday as an intensifying Hurricane Emily moved away from Florida and churned in the general direction of Charleston, S.C., which was ravaged four years ago by Hurricane Hugo.

"Our good fortune could be somebody else's misfortune," said Bob Sheets, director of the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla.

"We would love to have it miss us," said Gov. Lawton M. Chiles Jr. of Florida. "We'd love to have it miss the United States entirely and just stay on a northern course."

The storm was centered last night about 850 miles east of Cape Canaveral, Fla., and was plodding northwest through the Atlantic, away from Florida but toward coastal areas farther north. Landfall is expected -- no one had a real clue where -- on Tuesday.

Ominously, Emily gained speed and destructive power. It moved toward the coast at 9 mph last night. Nurtured by warm waters, its sustained winds reached 85 mph.

Mr. Sheets noted that Emily was stronger than Andrew at Landfall Minus Three Days. And Emily is expected to intensify again today as it continues on a northwesterly track.

A complex set of weather conditions confounded any predictions of where Emily would strike land, Mr. Sheets said. He said that producing such a prediction was the toughest challenge of his 30 years as a forecaster.

Experts said there was a slim chance that Emily would turn northward and never strike land. But it is more likely that the hurricane will plow into the central East Coast.

Forecasters said hurricane watches could be posted by late today, although it is unclear what areas might be affected. An advisory issued last night listed the highest probability of landfall somewhere between Savannah, Ga., and Cape Hatteras, N.C.

By the time it hits land, Emily is expected to be nearly as powerful as Hugo. Emily could grow into a Category Three hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale -- with winds of 111 to 130 mph. Hugo produced winds of 135 mph when it pummeled Charleston, S.C., killing 27 people in South Carolina and causing nearly $7 billion in damage.

Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston took his own boat out of the water yesterday and warned residents to prepare for the worst -- again.

Elsewhere in South Carolina, the Charleston County Emergency Preparedness Division put all county agencies on 24-hour alert. And markets along the coast have been deluged with shoppers looking ahead.

Peter Stone, the emergency management coordinator for Ocracoke Island, along North Carolina's vulnerable Outer Banks, was poised for action. Up to 7,000 residents and vacationers might be required to flee that island.

In Washington, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which was widely criticized for its slow and uncoordinated response to Hurricane Andrew, pronounced itself more prepared this time.

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