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Computer models differ over Hurricane Ophelia

Robert Nolin and Ken Kaye South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Stalled offshore with maddening uncertainty, a freshly minted Hurricane Ophelia sent winds and waves crashing into the state’s northeast coast Thursday and left South Floridians wondering whether it would loop back over their region.

But for now, and over the next several days, forecasters anticipate the storm and its 74-mph-plus winds will slowly drift northeast into the Atlantic Ocean.

“Beyond that it gets very nebulous,” forecaster Jack Beven said from the National Hurricane Center west of Miami.

Computer models are in sharp disagreement over the track of Ophelia. It is the seventh hurricane and the 15th named storm in a season when experts predict 20 or more named storms, 10 or 11 of them hurricanes.

One model predicts it will veer northwest and make landfall in the northern part of the state. Another has the storm curving to the south, then west toward South Florida. Others show it spinning in a tight curl not too far offshore.

The storm is stuck between two high-pressure ridges, Beven said, but is expected to move northeast as one ridge weakens. Another ridge is predicted to form over the Eastern United States and halt the hurricane’s progress. After that, the course of the storm is guesswork.

“Most likely it’s going to make some sort of loop,” Beven said. “It’s not an immediate threat to South Florida. It would have to make a very large loop to get back to South Florida.”

While the system stays mostly stationary about 70 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral, it has caused beach erosion and forced the closing of a portion of State Road A1A in Flagler County, as well as the opening of three public shelters in Volusia County, the Associated Press reported.

In South Florida, the hurricane has caused higher than normal temperatures. In Fort Lauderdale, the high Thursday was 91, four degrees short of the 1921 record. Miami saw temperatures hit 92.

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