Floridians on Wednesday braced for a double hit as Hurricane Charley aimed toward the Florida Keys and Tropical Storm Bonnie approached hurricane strength as it tracked toward the already-wet Florida Panhandle.
Bonnie was forecast to hit the state early Thursday, at least 12 hours earlier than Charley. The rare prospect of back-to-back hurricanes striking Florida within a day caused Gov. Jeb Bush (R) to declare a state of emergency, some schools and government offices to close and forecasters to warn residents to prepare for the worst.
"Residents should make sure they're getting prepared," said Daniel Brown, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "They're both something people should be watching."
The last time two tropical storms struck Florida within days was in 2000, when Helene hit Pensacola and Gordon hit Cedar Key, according to the hurricane center.
The National Hurricane Center placed most of northwest Florida, from the Alabama border to the mouth of the Suwannee River, under a hurricane warning or watch Wednesday because of Bonnie. About 2.1 million people live in the watch area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Charley was predicted to hit or pass close to the lower Keys and then hit the southwestern Florida mainland early Friday as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, with winds of 85 to 105 mph, Brown said.