FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — In the warm seas midway between Africa and the Americas, Tropical Storm Dean was born Tuesday -- and forecasters said it could grow into a powerful hurricane that could take aim at the Caribbean and South Florida.
While still too early to say where the system will go, long-range projections call for it to churn over the Lesser Antilles as a minimal hurricane on Saturday and close in on the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Sunday with sustained winds near 110 mph. If its track were to arc toward Florida, it could approach the southern part of the state as early as Tuesday.
Though forecasters were advising residents to be alert, they also noted that long-range hurricane predictions can be quite inaccurate.
It might be Friday or Saturday before they are more confident of Dean's ultimate course.
Hurricane specialist Michelle Mainelli of the National Hurricane Center said the computerized models used to predict Dean's motion had been "flip-flopping" in the last few days because of conflicting meteorological influences.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to nine hurricanes will develop by Nov. 30, the official end of hurricane season. The Colorado State University team of Bill Gray and Phil Klotzbach forecasts eight hurricanes.