August 21, 2006

Fourth tropical depression forms in Atlantic

MIAMI (Reuters) - The fourth tropical depression of the
2006 Atlantic hurricane season formed on Monday in the far
eastern Atlantic and was expected to become Tropical Storm
Debby as it approached the southernmost Cape Verde islands.

By 5 p.m. (2100 GMT), the depression was about 250 miles

southeast of the islands, and moving toward the
west-northwest at 12 miles per hour, the Miami-based U.S.
National Hurricane Center said.

It was too early to predict whether the weather system
would eventually reach the Gulf of Mexico or the U.S. East
coast, both battered last year by a record hurricane season
that produced 28 storms, including Hurricane Katrina.

Oil traders, wary of storms since hurricanes ripped through
oil and gas platforms in the Gulf in 2004 and 2005, said they
were keeping an eye on the depression.

The hurricane center said the government of the Cape Verde
islands had issued a tropical storm warning as the depression's
maximum sustained winds reached 35 mph (55 kph).

Once it reaches 39 mph (63 kph), the system will be
categorized as a tropical storm and be given a name, Debby.
That was expected to occur within the next 24 hours, the
hurricane center said.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season has been quiet to date.
So far, only three tropical storms have formed -- Alberto,
Beryl and Chris. Strong wind shear -- the difference in wind
speed and direction at different levels of the atmosphere --
has disrupted some of the tropical weather systems that
eventually become cyclones.

In comparison, nine storms developed by August 7 last year.

Last year Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans after
coming ashore in Louisiana on August 29, killing around 1,300
people and Hurricane Wilma, later in the season, at one point
became the strongest Atlantic storm on record.

Hurricane experts say it is not unusual for the first two
or three months of the June 1 to November 30 storm season to
see little activity. The worst part of the season is usually
between mid-August and late October.