August 23, 2006

Tropical Storm Debby weakens over open water

MIAMI (Reuters) - Debby, the fourth tropical storm of the
2006 Atlantic hurricane season, weakened a bit on Wednesday as
it moved over slightly cooler waters and posed no threat to
land, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Debby had maximum sustained winds near 45 mph (75 kph),
down from 50 mph (85 kph) six hours earlier, and was about 610
miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands by 5 p.m. (2100
GMT), the Miami-based hurricane center said.

It was moving west-northwest near 20 mph (32 kph). Little
change in strength was forecast over the next 24 hours. The
storm system was then expected to move over warmer waters, the
fuel it needs to gain power, as it headed in the general
direction of the British mid-Atlantic territory of Bermuda.

Debby strengthened from a tropical depression into a
tropical storm late on Tuesday when sustained winds reached 39
mph (63 kph).

The hurricane center said Debby could become the season's
first hurricane by Sunday, when its top winds were projected to
reach 74 mph (119 kph), the threshold for hurricane status.

Its most likely long-range track took the storm well to the
east of Bermuda, where it would not threaten the Southeastern
United States or the oil-producing U.S. Gulf Coast, battered by
the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season.

The current June 1 to November 30 Atlantic hurricane season
has been quiet to date, with only three tropical storms.

Last year produced a record 28 tropical storms and
hurricanes. Katrina devastated New Orleans and killed about
1,500 people along the Gulf coast, according to the latest
estimate by the hurricane center.

The busiest period of a hurricane season is usually between
mid-August and late October.