WEATHER Florida shores under watch as tropical storms approach
Evacuation can take hours, with only one road to the mainland.
MIAMI (AP) -- Back-to-back tropical storms took aim at Florida today, with Bonnie creeping across the Gulf of Mexico toward the already-wet panhandle and a stronger Charley behind it on a course toward the vulnerable lower Keys.
The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the middle and lower Florida Keys from Dry Tortugas to Craig Key. A watch means hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours.
Florida officials will begin considering Thursday whether to evacuate the island chain, which can take a number of hours because there's only one road to the mainland, said Craig Fugate, the state's emergency management director.
At a Days Inn in Key West, manager Lisa Kaminski already was telling the hotel's approximately 200 guests that they had to leave, and she was warning people who had reservations.
"We're telling people that the hurricane will probably be here Friday and it's in their best interest not to come," she said.
Kaminski was hopeful that the fast-moving storm wouldn't do much damage.
"It won't sit on top of us," she said.
Charley was forecast to hit or pass close to the lower Keys late Thursday and then continue northward. It was expected to hit the southwestern Florida mainland early Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, packing sustained wind of about 85 mph, forecaster Daniel Brown said at the hurricane center in Miami.
Unlike Charley, Bonnie is not expected to become a hurricane, meteorologists said.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.