Tropical Storm Bonnie accelerated on a course toward Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, where it’s already delaying efforts by BP Plc to permanently plug its wrecked Macondo well.
Bonnie, packing sustained winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) an hour, was moving west-northwest at 18 miles an hour, up from 16 mph three hours earlier, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory on its website shortly before 5 a.m. Miami time. The system, which earlier hit the northwestern Bahamas, was 155 miles southeast of Miami.
“The center of Bonnie is expected to pass near or over the Florida Keys and the southern Florida peninsula later today and move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico tonight” and tomorrow, the center said. Slow strengthening of the system is possible during the next two days, it said.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for the northwestern Bahamas as well as Florida’s east coast from Deerfield Beach to the Keys. A warning for the state’s west coast extends as far north as Englewood. A warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours, the hurricane center said.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for the east coast of Florida north of Deerfield Beach to Jupiter Inlet and the northern Gulf coast from Destin, Florida, to Morgan City, Louisiana. A watch means tropical storm conditions are expected within 48 hours, the hurricane center said.
The storm is forecast to leave as much as 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain over southern Florida and will raise water levels by as much as two feet above ground level, according to the hurricane center.
BP said the storm’s high seas made it necessary to move ships working on the relief wells that will be used to kill Macondo by pumping it full of mud and cement. That will set back completion of the plugging project to the end of August. The oil spill is the worst in U.S. history.
Bonnie is the second named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which is expected to be one of the most active on record, according to forecasters including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Colorado State University. The season, which began June 1, runs through November.
If Bonnie strengthens further to winds of at least 74 mph it would become a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest on the five- step Saffir-Simpson scale, capable of tearing off roofs and hurling debris with lethal forces, according to the hurricane center.