Storm Season Unleashed: Claudette Hits, but Bill Could Pack a Bigger Punch

After quiet start to hurricane season, three named storms came over the weekend.

ByABC News
August 17, 2009, 7:19 AM

Aug. 17, 2009— -- It is as if someone flicked the "on" switch this weekend. For 10 weeks, we had a hurricane season with no hurricanes.

But the last 30 hours brought three named storms, including Bill, the first Atlantic hurricane of the season.

The remnants of what was Tropical Storm Claudette is already wreaking havoc, and Bill is marching toward the U.S. East coast and could become a major hurricane by the end of the week. Current forecasts show Bill will turn north and may not make landfall.

Overnight in the Florida Panhandle, Claudette came ashore with winds of 50 miles an hour and more than 6 inches of rain forecast. The storm has been downgraded to a tropical depression but is still heading north over Alabama and Georgia, bringing heavy rains and high winds, but no major flooding or damage is expected.

Claudette was a classic "popup storm," simply appearing out of nowhere. Eighteen hours after popping up in the Gulf of Mexico, Claudette made landfall early Monday morning.

"I think Claudette is a warning shot," Accu-Weather's Joe Bastardi told ABC News. "The Gulf is more primed than usual for intensification this year."

Many Florida residents were caught by surprise.

"I'm just looking out for my boat, doing what I have to do to save it," sailor Paul Freudel told ABC News Sunday as he made preparations.

In Pensacola, on the Panhandle, the National Park Service closed low-lying roads.

"We may see some heavy rains as a result, but we don't expect any high winds or coastal flooding," John Dosh, manager of Emergency Management told The Associated Press. "This event is a good example of how quickly a tropical storm can develop. We won't always have a lot of warning. This is why citizens need to be prepared throughout hurricane season."

Ana, which had been the first named storm of the season, is already falling apart. Overnight Ana was downgraded to a tropical depression after encountering dry air, which is sapping her strength.

But just behind is Bill, the first hurricane to form this season in the Atlantic Ocean.

Bill is already a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 75 mph, and the warm waters over the open Atlantic are fueling the storm even more. Bill is currently expected to grow into a major hurricane by the end of the week. A low-pressure trough is forming that could divert Bill's path out into the open waters and keep him from making landfall.