MIAMI – Tropical Storm Franklin threatened the Bahamas (search) with wind and rain, but Florida and the rest of the southeast U.S. coast were likely to be spared unless its expected track shifts, forecasters said Friday.
The storm, which formed Thursday, had sustained winds near 50 mph by late Friday morning.
At 11 a.m. EDT, the storm's center was about 30 miles north-northeast of Great Abaco Island (search) in the northwestern Bahamas. The storm may drop 2 to 4 inches of rain in the area, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Franklin was meandering slowly toward the northwest at only 2 mph but was expected eventually to curve to the northeast after passing the Bahamas, forecasters said.
That track would keep it well off the U.S. coast, forecasters said. But a low pressure system could instead push the storm west toward Florida (search), hurricane specialist Jack Beven said.
"Florida is not totally out of the woods yet," he said.
Franklin is the earliest sixth tropical storm on record for the Atlantic hurricane season.
The Bahamas issued a tropical storm warning for Eleuthera, the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island. Warnings for New Providence, where the capital Nassau is located, and the Berry Islands were discontinued.
Less than two full months into the current season, there have already been a record five named storms, including two major hurricanes — Dennis and Emily.