Claudette Hits Fla. as Hurricane Bill Forms
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 17, 2009 7:03 AM CDT
Beach goers stand beach side as dark clouds form in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Sunday, Aug. 16, 2009, ahead of Tropical Storm Claudette.    (MARI DARR~WELCH)
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(Newser) – Tropical Storm Claudette made landfall on the Florida Panhandle near Fort Walton Beach early this morning after dumping heavy rains on the area. The storm has been weakening as it moves farther inland, with winds at around 40mph, and forecasters said it would probably become a tropical depression later in the day. But in the Caribbean, Hurricane Bill became the first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season.

Hurricane Bill has maximum sustained winds near 75 mph but is expected to strengthen. It is centered about 1,160 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and moving quickly west-northwest. Despite the storms, the warmer weather pattern known as El Niño over the Pacific Ocean is expected to damper the formation of tropical storms in the Caribbean and Atlantic this year.