Monday evening as Hurricane Fran sped toward the chain of tiny islands, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.
Fran could threaten the central or northern coast of Florida by late on Thursday, forecasters said.
At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT on Tuesday),
Fran was 670 miles (1,080 km) east-southeast of Miami at latitude 24.4
69.6 west. The storm with 80 mph (130 kph) winds was moving west-northwest at 13 mph (19 kph), which could put it near
the chain of tiny Bahamian islands by Tuesday, the National Hurricane Centre said.
The Bahamian government issued a hurricane
watch for the central portion of the 600-mile (965-km) long archipelego,
including the islands of San Salvador, Great Exuma, Long Islnd and Cat Island.
In Miami, hurricane centre forecaster Jerry Jarrell said an upper-level ridge of air was steering Fran northwest and could help the storm grow stronger over the next few days.
"It's difficult to see why it would
hit South Florida, and northern or central Florida seems like a much better
bet. But we're still
three days away from U.S. landfall and a lot could happen," Jarrell said. "It's not a given that it's going to hit the Florida coast."
Hurricane-force winds extended outward about 60 miles (95 km) from Fran's centre.
In central Florida, the U.S. space agency said it would decide on Tuesday whether to move the shuttle Atlantis off its seaside launch pad. Atlantis is being prepared for a Sept. 14 launch to rendezvous with the Russian space station and pick up American astronaut Shannon Lucid.
Over the Labour Day holiday weekend, the southeastern United States dodged Hurricane Edouard, which whipped up heavy surf and ruined end-of-the-summer beach outings in New England.
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