August 14, 2005

Irene strengthens into hurricane in Atlantic

MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Irene strengthened into
the season's third hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday
but turned away from the U.S. East Coast on a path that posed
no threat to land, weather forecasters said.

Irene's top winds reached 80 mph (130 kph), crossing the 74
mph (119 kph) to become a minimal hurricane.

But that strengthening coincided with an anticipated -- and
welcomed -- change in course that would take it harmlessly over
the Atlantic and away from land.

At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT on Monday) Irene was centered
about 355 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and
moving north-northeast, forecasters at the U.S. National
Hurricane Center in Miami said.

It was expected to turn more to the northeast and fizzle by
midweek as it moved over colder water, the forecasters said.

Irene was the ninth tropical storm of a busy
Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season that is just approaching
what is traditionally the most active period. The season runs
from June 1 to November 30, but most storms form between late
August and early October, with the peak of the season in early

Most seasons see only one hurricane by mid-August. Irene
was this year's third hurricane, marking the first time since
1966 that three have formed so early.