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Hurricane forms, but risk lurks elsewhere

Florence strengthens into a hurricane, but forecasters say it's another storm that may threaten Florida.

Hurricane Florence formed in the Atlantic on Tuesday but is not expected to threaten land.

But forecasters warned Floridians to be wary of another tropical system that could pose a threat in a matter of days _ an area of disturbed weather in the western Caribbean that could enter the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday.

"That is most definitely a system to watch," said National Hurricane Center forecaster Stacy Stewart.

With maximum sustained winds near 75 mph, Florence was barely at hurricane strength, and its movement is expected to be erratic today and perhaps Thursday. It became better organized Tuesday, however.

At 11 p.m. the storm's center was near 31.0 degrees N latitude and 73.9 degrees W longitude, or about 310 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras. It was moving to the northwest at about 5 mph late Tuesday.

"We expect the motion to be slow for the next day or two," Stewart said. "It will just sort of meander around."

By week's end, however, the southwest-to-northeast winds associated with a low pressure trough moving through the state are expected to guide Florence to the northeast, away from land. At least, that's what the National Hurricane Center's models project.

Boaters should watch the system, which was expected to produce heavy surf and strong currents along the southeastern U.S. coast and on Bermuda.

Meanwhile, the strong tropical wave moving northwest through the Caribbean became better organized, too.

"It could pass through the Yucatan Channel and be in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by Thursday," Stewart said. Conditions favor further development of this system, he said.

For the past few weeks _ in the heart of the hurricane season _ the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico have been uncharacteristically quiet, as high altitude winds from the west suppressed developing storms.

But those winds have abated, and storm activity is increasing. In addition to Florence and the disturbance in the Caribbean, forecasters were also watching two other systems:

A weaker area of low pressure in the western Gulf of Mexico is moving slowly west-northwest.

In the Atlantic, a tropical wave about 850 miles east of the Lesser Antilles is moving to the west.

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