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Hurricane Dennis Picking Up Steam, Eyeing Florida Land LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MIAMI

A strengthening Hurricane Dennis swirled menacingly along the southeast coast Friday, kicking up surf in Florida while threatening to blow ashore in the Carolinas early next week.

Forecasters said the storm’s maximum winds could rise to 110 miles an hour or more as it paralleled the coastline on a northward trajectory.

Late Friday the center of Dennis was located about 300 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, and moving north-northwest at seven miles an hour. Top winds were estimated at 80 miles an hour.

Dennis pounded the northern-most Bahamas on Friday. Especially hard-hit was Great Abaco, which saw the eye of the storm pass over just before sunset. Ham radio operators reporters wind gusts of more than 60 miles an hour, according to forecasters at Miami’s National Hurricane Center.

Computer models predicted the hurricane would gain strength once it cleared the Bahamas and moved out over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Those same computers say that the hurricane would likely strike the Carolina coast sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.

Maryland Drought Aids Police in Hunting for Marijuana THE WASHINGTON POST -- The drought that’s aggravating home gardeners, pool owners, and golf course caretakers has been a boon to at least one group: police officers who hunt out marijuana plants.

With the shrubs and underbrush that generally conceal marijuana turning brown in the sweltering heat, carefully tended -- and religiously watered -- pot plants are sticking out like very sore, very green thumbs, law enforcement officials say.

Police in Maryland and Virginia regularly embark on airplane flights over private property and public parks in search of illicitly grown marijuana. Sgt. Kirk Holub, head of the Montgomery County, Md., Police Department’s narcotics division, said that from above, the “emerald green” of marijuana stands out in a field turned barren from lack of rain.

“It’s made it easier to identify the crops. It’s just a lot harder to find cover,” Holub said. This week alone, officials in Maryland have seized more than 100 marijuana plants. Arrests have nearly doubled, from 54 last year to about 100 so far this year.

So far this year, about 2,500 marijuana plants have been found in Maryland, up from 2,200 -- or $4 million worth -- at this time last year.

In Virginia, which hasn’t suffered the same rainfall deficits this summer as Maryland, officials have seized more than 7,500 plants, compared to roughly 10,000 seized in the same period last year, said First Sgt. J.C. Lewis, head of the Virginia State Police Marijuana Eradication Program.

The problem for marijuana farmers has to do with the stubby root structure of their chosen crop. The University of Mississippi’s Mamhoud Elsohly, who researches marijuana for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the nation’s only legal provider of marijuana for research, said cannabis roots extend a scant six inches into the ground, unlike the roots of, say, cotton plants, which grow far deeper and require less water.

The Catch-22 has attracted the attention of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation, a Washington-based pot-advocacy group. Marijuana growers “know if they go out and water the crops, it’ll draw attention,” said Allen St. Pierre, the group’s executive director, who added that several pot farmers have told him that they are “definitely concerned about their outdoor crops.”