The lower Florida Keys are under mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Tropical Storm Rita. All the Keys are under a hurricane warning.
Rita is expected to pass to the south tomorrow. The island chain could be hit with an eight-foot storm surge.
The weather is expected to deteriorate through the day.
As dawn broke, Key West streets were quiet and the skies were clear in a calm before the storm.
Rita's top sustained winds are 60 miles an hour. The storm could reach Level One hurricane status by the time it passes the Keys.
Rita does not bode well for the Gulf, either. By the coming weekend, a forecast track puts it near Texas. People in areas smashed by Hurricane Katrina are being warned Rita could veer in their direction instead.
A Stuart, Florida, resident packing his Harley-Davidson motorcycle this morning says he hopes to stay ahead of Rita and find gas before stations close or run dry.
He says he is "totally shocked" by the storm, asking "where did it come from?"
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