Tammy churns toward north Florida

Tropical Storm Tammy churned off the north Florida coast on Wednesday, packing wind of 45 mph (72 kph), dumping heavy rain in spots and cranking out waves up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) high, forecasters said.

A tropical storm warning was issued from Flagler Beach, north of Daytona Beach, to South Carolina's Santee River. The warning means tropical storm conditions were expected within 24 hours.

Tammy was centered about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of Daytona Beach at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) and was moving north-northwest at 14 mph (22.5 kph). It was expected to continue moving parallel to Florida's east coast while gradually slowing its forward motion.

Robbie Berg, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said because Tammy will spend so little time over water, it is unlikely that it will reach hurricane strength of 74 mph (119 kph). He said it is hard to forecast where Tammy will make landfall because "one slight variation in its track could bring it onshore."

Seven hurricanes have brushed past or hit Florida in the last 14 months, including three this year. Tourists and business people are canceling reservations with the approach of the storm, said Eric Fort, general manager of the Sea Walk Hotel. He estimated business is off 75 percent from this time last year, a triple whammy from the economy, gas prices and fear of the storm.

Tammy is the 19th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. This season is tied for the second-busiest since record-keeping started in 1851; 19 storms also formed in 1995 and 1887. The record for tropical storms and hurricanes in one year is 21, set in 1933, AP reports.

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