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Briefs (right)

Floridians Gird
For Ernesto’s Arrival

By Abby Goodnough


South Floridians began hoarding gas and other supplies Monday as Tropical Storm Ernesto threatened to strike here as a hurricane on Tuesday night or early Wednesday.

Though it was too soon to know how powerful the storm might become after leaving Cuba and crossing the warm water of the Florida Straits, schools and courts announced they would close on Tuesday and Wednesday. Miami-Dade and Broward counties prepared to open shelters, and Broward ordered a mandatory evacuation of mobile homes.

Before it was downgraded to a tropical storm, Ernesto briefly became the first hurricane of the season on Sunday. Even if it does not grow back into a hurricane, the forecasters said, it could inflict significant damage on parts of the state, with winds of up to 70 mph.

“We can’t pinpoint an exact place for landfall,” said Jamie Rhome, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, “but anyone in the cone should continue to prepare.”

The “cone of probability” for a strike, as predicted by the center, includes the entire Florida peninsula, the eastern half of Georgia, most of South Carolina and a big chunk of North Carolina.

In Cape Canaveral, NASA canceled its launching of the shuttle Atlantis, planned for Tuesday, and rolled the shuttle back to its hangar.

Ford’s Buyout Plan No. 1 Topic
For Union Leaders Today

By Nick Bunkley and Micheline Maynard


Local union leaders at the Ford Motor Co. are scheduled to meet here Tuesday to discuss a possible expansion of the employee buyout program as well as other moves the company may take to accelerate its turnaround effort.

The meeting of leaders of the United Automobile Workers union locals comes about three weeks before Ford, which lost about $1.5 billion in the first half of the year, is expected to detail its amended “Way Forward” restructuring plan.

The automaker, whose sales were eclipsed in July for the first time by the Japanese rival Toyota, recently announced substantial cuts in production in the third and fourth quarters.

Analysts now expect Ford to offer buyouts to many or all of its hourly employees, mirroring a similar program at General Motors. Nearly 35,000 employees, almost a third of GM’s unionized work force, accepted the offers, which included cash payouts of as much as $140,000.

Ford has said it plans to cut 30,000 jobs, or about a third of its work force in North America, by 2012 and close 14 plants. But it has a work force that is, on average, younger than GM’s, and some analysts have said Ford would need to offer a better deal than GM to garner the same type of response.