Originally created 08/31/96

Edouard Spinning Unpredictably in Atlantic



Hurricane Edouard kicked up the surf along the East Coast on Friday as it churned in the Atlantic on a course so unpredictable it could hit land anywhere from North Carolina to New England during the Labor Day weekend.

Forecasters weren't sure when, where or even if the 130-mph storm would come ashore, leaving vacationers to wonder if they should hit the beach or head for higher ground. If the storm stays on track, it will hit Long Island, N.Y., Monday, forecasters said.

"We are not saying it will hit Long Island," forecaster Mike Hopkins said. "That is the direction it is headed, but a lot can happen between now and then. It could hit farther south or turn and head out into the Atlantic."

The National Hurricane Center near Miami issued a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch stretching from Cape Lookout, N.C., to Cape Henlopen, Del. The hurricane watch could be extended farther north over the weekend.

At 5 p.m. Edouard's eye was 500 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and headed north-northwest at 14 mph. Even if the hurricane doesn't directly hit land, winds of 40 mph extended as far as 200 miles from its center.

A low-pressure trough that had been pushing Edouard north and away from the coast had weakened.

"That leaves nothing to steer the hurricane," Mr. Hopkins said.

Tourists kept watch on the storm, but few were scared enough to cancel reservations.

"We've been waiting all summer to come here," said Larry Lovrich of Monroe Township, N.J., who was with his wife and two of his children in Wildwood Crest, N.J. "If it comes, we'll do things indoors. Shopping, movies, playing cards."

Red no-swimming flags flew at beaches in North Carolina. Rough surf was reported up and down the East Coast.

Two tropical storms were tracking behind Edouard.

Hurricane Fran was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday. The storm had 70-mph winds and was 230 miles northeast of Antigua in the eastern Caribbean. It was moving northwest at 9 mph toward the Bahamas, but could turn toward the United States.

And Tropical Storm Gustav was fading away. It was centered about 1,040 miles west of the Cape Verde islands off western Africa, and forecasters expected it to weaken.