Hurricane Bonnie churned up the Atlantic Monday with 115-mph winds, prompting people from Florida to North Carolina to stock up on emergency supplies and tune in to weather reports. Two swimmers drowned and dozens had to be rescued from East Coast beaches.
The National Hurricane Center outside Miami reported the 400-mile wide storm was centered 165 miles northeast of San Salvador in the central Bahamas at 8 a.m. EDT.The hurricane - a Category 3 storm capable of causing severe coastal flooding and serious damage to buildings and homes - has been wobbling northwest at 5 mph.
The center said a hurricane watch may be issued for a portion of the southeastern U.S. coast later Monday. A hurricane warning remained in effect for central Bahamas Monday morning and a hurricane watch was issued for the northwestern Bahamas.
It was not clear exactly where the hurricane could strike the U.S. mainland, or when, since it appeared to be stalling Monday.
Two computer models indicated a slow northwest motion toward Georgia or South Carolina, but another would keep the hurricane 100 miles off North Carolina's Outer Banks.
On Hatteras Island, N.C., tourists and residents were shopping for hurricane supplies.
"When you climb that (Hatteras) Lighthouse and you see what kind of strip you're on, no way I'm going to stay," said Jo Ann Childers, manager of a hardware store in Avon, N.C. "I can't even swim. You think I'm going to stay?"
Waves reportedly reached 8 feet in South Carolina and 4 feet in Atlantic City.
The size of the storm worried forecasters. Hurricane-force winds extended 85 miles out from Bonnie's center and tropical storm force winds could be felt 200 miles out.
Bonnie could grow stronger, but forecasters doubted it would reach the Category 4 level, with winds of at least 131 mph.