Tropical storm moves towards South Florida

By Andre C. Fernandez, Laura Stampler and Diana Moskovitz

                MIAMI _ Friday should be a good day to stay inside, if you are in Florida.

                As Tropical Storm Bonnie inched toward South Florida, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center predicted that local weather would deteriorate Friday morning and decline throughout the day, with the worst effects likely in the late afternoon or early evening.

                South Floridians were advised to carry patio furniture indoors and to stay indoors themselves, if they can.

                By late Friday, forecasters predicted, two to four inches of rain will fall on the region, with isolated pockets getting more than that. Bonnie is expected to pack sustained winds of up to 40 mph.

                The good news: Bonnie probably won’t get much stronger, even as the storm heads toward the Gulf of Mexico, hurricane forecaster Todd Kimberlain said. Growth is stunted by an upper-level low that keeps conditions unfavorable for hurricanes, Kimberlain said.

                Bonnie’s expected arrival shuttered Dry Tortugas National Park off Key West and 16 state parks on the southeast and southwest coasts on Thursday. But otherwise local officials said business is expected to continue as usual.

                In Miami-Dade County, government offices will remain open Friday. Public transit as well as garbage services will continue operating, and Tri-Rail remained on schedule to run Friday.

                “In other words, continue with your daily routine, but stay aware,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said in a statement.

                Alvarez said that with sunny weather Thursday and the high density of people at the beach and at water parks, it is difficult to issue a tropical storm warning and tell people to be prepared.

                “The fact of the matter is that we could be facing 30- to 40-mile-per-hour winds in the next 36 hours or so, with gusts of up to 60, but let’s see,” Alvarez said.