Fay Hits Florida, Strengthens As It Moves Inland

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) - Tropical Storm Fay rolled ashore in Florida today short of hurricane strength, but mysteriously gained speed as it headed over land, bringing heavy rain, high wind and tornadoes.

The storm dumped knee-deep water in some streets, downed trees and plunged 58,000 homes and businesses into the dark. A tornado ripped through Brevard County, damaging 51 homes, nine severely.
But overall, residents said it wasn't as bad they feared.

Forecasters posted a hurricane watch for parts of Florida and Georgia because Fay's chances of strengthening increased as it remained well organized over land. Its top sustained winds increased during the day by 5 mph to 65 mph. A hurricane has winds of at least 74 mph.

Forecasters say tropical storms and hurricanes do occasionally strengthen while over land.

Forecasters are not certain why it is occurring with Fay, but it moved over the flat, swampy Everglades, which has ample warm water that storms need for energy.

Blake urged people not to focus too much on whether Fay was a tropical storm or a hurricane, because either one can cause damage.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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