UPDATE 4-Tropical Storm Andrea strengthens before Florida landfall

Thu Jun 6, 2013 5:45pm EDT
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By Jane Sutton

MIAMI, June 6 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Andrea strengthened slightly just before making landfall in Florida on Thursday and was forecast to drench much of the U.S. Southeast with heavy rain as it cuts across Georgia and up the Atlantic coast, the National Hurricane Center said.

The season's first Atlantic tropical storm had already spawned tornadoes in Florida and threatened to fuel more twisters on Thursday night, after making landfall over the Big Bend area, where the Florida peninsula joins the mainland.

By late Thursday afternoon, Andrea was packing top sustained winds near 65 miles (100 km) per hour and it was expected to weaken after landfall, as it cuts a soggy path across the peninsula into the Atlantic, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

It said the winds extended outward up to 140 miles (220 km) from the storm's center.

Andrea will likely remain a tropical storm for a day or two, hugging the shore and bringing heavy rain and gales to Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, said Jack Beven, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.

"It might be just inland and it might be just a little off shore," Beven said. "It's going to be a weather-maker" as it moves north up the East Coast.

On Saturday, Andrea was expected to merge with a frontal system and morph into a Nor'easter as it moved over the northeastern U.S. coast and Nova Scotia.   Continued...