August 12, 2005

Tropical Storm Irene nears hurricane strength

MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Irene strengthened in the
Atlantic Ocean on Friday and could become a minimal hurricane
as it approaches the U.S. East Coast, forecasters said.

Irene did not immediately threaten land and was expected to
loop away from the United States, but it was too early to be
certain of that, forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane
Center said.

At 11 a.m. EDT/1500 GMT Irene was centered about 700 miles

southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and moving

It was expected to turn more to the north and then meander
off the coast of the Carolinas and the mid-Atlantic states by
Wednesday. Forecasters expected it to eventually turn
harmlessly back out to sea, but there was still a chance it
could come ashore anywhere from the Carolinas to New York or
New England.

Irene had sustained winds near 65 mph (100 mph). It was
expected to reach hurricane strength of 74 mph (118 kph), then
move over cooler waters that would keep it from strengthening
beyond a minimal hurricane.

Irene was the ninth tropical storm of a busy
Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season that is just approaching
what is traditionally the most active period. Most storms form
between late August and early October, with the peak of the
season in early September.