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Indecisive Florence forms in Atlantic

Tropical Storm Florence formed southeast of the Carolinas on Monday and quickly reached near-hurricane strength. The storm seemed a little uncertain about where to go, however.

At 11 p.m. Florence's center was near 30.2 degrees north latitude and 72.8 degrees west longitude, or about 400 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. The storm's maximum sustained winds were near 70 mph, just 4 mph short of hurricane status, and some gusts were higher.

The system is expected to move slowly and erratically over the next few days, first to the southwest, then later to the northeast, away from land, said National Hurricane Center specialist Stacy Stewart.

The computer models used to forecast storm movement are "wildly divergent" on where the storm will go in the next two days, said forecaster James Franklin, but generally agree it will turn to the east without getting near the United States.

Models tend to disagree when there are few strong "steering currents" affecting a storm.

Florence is expected to get its nudge to the east later this week from a trough of low pressure, moving south through the state with southwest-to-northeast winds.

Though Florence could strengthen and become a hurricane, Stewart said, it is not likely to become a very strong one. The same high altitude winds that have inhibited storm development this hurricane season by shearing off their tops have been at work on Florence, too.