- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

CEDAR KEY, Fla. (AP) - The first tropical storm of the season raked northern Florida with rain and powerful wind gusts this morning but didn’t blow up into a hurricane as forecasters had feared.

A hurricane warning that had been issued for more than 100 miles of Florida’s gulf coast was downgraded to a tropical storm warning midmorning after Alberto’s top sustained winds dropped to 50 mph, well below the 74 mph threshold for a hurricane.

“The big concern now is going to be shifting to the rainfall and the tornado threat as it moves along the southeastern (U.S.) coast line,” National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield said.

A flood watch was issued for southeastern South Carolina, where more than 5 inches of rain was possible.

Forecasters said parts of Florida and southeastern Georgia could get 4 to 10 inches of rain - welcome news to crews that have been battling wildfires for weeks in several parched Florida counties.

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