Tropical Storm Bonnie accelerated on a course toward Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, where it’s already delaying efforts by BP Plc to plug its wrecked Macondo well permanently.
Bonnie, packing sustained winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) an hour, was about 80 miles south-southeast of Miami and moving west-northwest at 19 miles an hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory on its website shortly before 8 a.m. local time.
“Bonnie is expected to move over the southern Florida peninsula later today and move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico tonight and Saturday,” the statement said. “Bonnie is forecast to approach the northern Gulf coast late Saturday or early Sunday.”
Tropical storm warnings are in effect 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.
Tropical-storm-strength winds extend about 85 miles from the center of the storm mainly on its northern and eastern sides, according to the center.
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.
Earlier today, an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter plane found signs that Bonnie’s circulation is becoming less defined.
“If this trend continues it is possible for Bonnie to degenerate,” a hurricane center forecast discussion said.
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.