(Updates storm death toll, position)
MIAMI Aug 22 Tropical Storm Fay was blamed on
Friday for seven deaths in Florida as forecasters warned that
its torrential rains threatened a large swath of the
southeastern United States with flooding over the weekend.
At 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) the center of the storm, which had
threatened to strengthen into a hurricane as it churned across
the Caribbean, over the Florida Keys and on to the state's
southwest coast, was about 110 miles (175 km) east of the
Panhandle city of Apalachicola, U.S. forecasters said.
The sixth storm of what experts predict will be a busy
Atlantic hurricane season, Fay was moving west at 6 miles per
hour (9 kph) after making its third Florida landfall on
Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm, with top sustained winds that had weakened to 45
mph (75 kph), was expected to move over the Florida Panhandle
on Saturday and dump heavy rain on northern Florida and
southern Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, the Miami-based
hurricane center said.
"Regardless of its exact track, Fay will be moving rather
slowly during the next several days, posing a significant heavy
rainfall and flood hazard to a very large area," it said.
There was a possibility the storm could steer farther south
and strengthen over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It
could then target an area where offshore rigs produce a large
amount of oil and natural gas and also the city of New Orleans,
which was swamped by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The storm brought rain of up to 21 inches (53 cm) to areas
around Cape Canaveral, home of the U.S. space shuttle fleet.
Emergency crews had to rescue some people from flooded
neighborhoods and hundreds of homes were affected, local
Before taking aim at Florida, the storm killed more than 50
people in the Caribbean, mostly in Haiti where a crowded bus
was swept away by a rain-swollen river.
In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist said the storm had been
"devastating, dangerous and deadly." He said seven deaths had
been caused by Fay, including those of two women who drowned in
heavy surf on Thursday in separate incidents along beaches off
the state's Atlantic coast.
The other deaths occurred in traffic accidents and an
incident in which a man died of carbon monoxide poisoning while
testing two power generators.
(Reporting by Tom Brown in Miami and Michael Peltier in
Tallahassee; Editing by Jane Sutton)