Storm am­bles north off U.S. coast as Irma-like sys­tem eyes Florida Keys

Strike pos­si­ble from N.C. to New Eng­land

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Doug Stan­glin @dstan­glin USA TO­DAY

Else­where, Hur­ri­cane Norma moved closer to Mex­ico in the Pa­cific, while Trop­i­cal Storm Lee formed in the At­lantic.

As Hur­ri­cane Jose am­bles north­ward in the At­lantic far off the East Coast, an in­nocu­ous­sound­ing sys­tem has turned into Trop­i­cal Storm Maria in the Caribbean and could well fol­low Irma’s de­struc­tive path to­ward Florida as a full-blown hur­ri­cane.

At 5 p.m. Satur­day, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter up­graded the one-time dis­tur­bance to Trop­i­cal De­pres­sion Maria and said it was 620 miles east-south­east of the Lesser An­tilles, mov­ing west at 20 mph. It was pack­ing max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 50 mph.

A hur­ri­cane watch was is­sued for An­tigua, Bar­buda, St. Kitts, Ne­vis and Montser­rat, a route fol­lowed by Irma as it moved west­ward.

A Trop­i­cal Storm watch was in ef­fect for St. Lu­cia, Mar­tinique, Guade­loupe, Do­minica, Bar­ba­dos, St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines.

“Hur­ri­cane con­di­tions are pos­si­ble within the hur­ri­cane watch area by Mon­day night or Tues­day, with trop­i­cal storm con­di­tions pos­si­ble on Mon­day,” the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said.

Al­though fore­cast tracks can change dra­mat­i­cally over the com­ing week, maps on Satur­day show the storm mov­ing on an Irma-like path over Puerto Rico on Wed­nes­day and His­pan­iola Thurs­day morn­ing head­ing straight to­ward the Florida Keys.

Hur­ri­cane Jose, mean­while, was 485 miles south-south­east of Cape Hat­teras, N.C., mov­ing north at 6 mph with max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 80 mph.

The cen­ter said “in­ter­ests” from North Carolina to New Eng­land should mon­i­tor the storm’s progress and ad­vised that trop­i­cal storm watches may be is­sued in the next day or two for por­tions of that area along the East Coast.

Else­where, Hur­ri­cane Norma weak­ened to a trop­i­cal storm as it moves closer to Mex­ico in the Pa­cific while Trop­i­cal Storm Lee has formed in the At­lantic far from land, head­ing west.

KELLY JOR­DAN, USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

An Amer­i­can flag waves Thurs­day where a home in the Sea Breeze Re­sort in Is­lam­orada, Fla., used to stand be­fore it was de­stroyed when Hur­ri­cane Irma brought high winds and flood­ing.

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