Tropical Storm Rina Strengthening

Tropical Storm Rina Update – As Rina quickly strengthened from tropical storm to a hurricane this afternoon, forecasters said it was too soon to determine how close the storm’s path will come to South Florida. Forecasters are predicting tit could turn into a major hurricane by late Tuesday.

Rina is the sixth hurricane of the 2011 season.

As of 5 p.m. today, it was a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds at 75 mph. The storm was about 190 miles northeast of the coastal city of Trujillo, Honduras, and was moving west-northwest at about 5 mph.

Rina’s hurricane-force winds extend 15 miles from the storm’s center, while tropical storm force winds extend up to 115 miles from that center.

The quick change in intensity is of major concern to those in Central America, but it has little influence on the forecast path, said Dave Roberts, the U.S. Navy meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center.

“All models are still showing the system staying down in the Caribbean at least through the end of the week,” Roberts said.

The storm’s impact on South Florida could depend on its interaction with a cold front approaching from the northwest later in the week.

The storm is forecast to continue on a northwest past through Thursday, brushing by Central America’s coast, until Friday morning when Rina is expected to take a hard right.

About that time the cold front will be headed in from the north, potentially shearing Rina’s strength and pushing it south of Florida’s tip. But changes in the storm’s speed or the front’s approach are not easy to predict, leaving the forecast path uncertain so far out, NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

Rina forms on the Oct. 24 anniversary of Hurricane Wilma’s landfall on the Southwest coast of Florida in 2005.

Wilma also formed in the Caribbean, as late-season storms are prone to do, and came ashore as a Category 3 storm with winds of about 121 mph. The storm buzzed through the state, heading out to sea just south of Jupiter, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Rina is not an immediate threat to the United States, Feltgen said.

“We ask that residents of South Florida to check back every day to see what’s happening and not to dig into those hurricane supplies just yet,” Feltgen said.

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