August 24, 2006

Tropical wave heads for Caribbean, eclipsing Debby

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A strong tropical wave approaching the
Windward Islands could strengthen into a tropical depression or
tropical storm Thursday, eclipsing Tropical Storm Debby, which
was spinning in the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. National Hurricane
Center said.

NHC said in a tropical weather outlook the wave was
well-organized and heavy squalls were beginning to spread over
the islands. The Windward Islands include Martinique, Saint
Lucia, Barbados, Saint Vincent, The Grenadines, Grenada, and
Trinidad and Tobago.

"Conditions appear to be favorable for a tropical
depression or a tropical storm to form later today," NHC said
early Thursday.

The center scheduled an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance
aircraft to investigate the system in the afternoon.

All of the major weather models showed the wave entering
the Caribbean Sea over the next day or so.

Four models put the storm in the waters south of Cuba near
Jamaica within five days. Another model had the storm crossing
the Dominican Republic before approaching the Bahamas over the
next five days or so.

If the wave gets into the Gulf of Mexico, it could disrupt
the U.S. oil and natural gas producing and refining facilities,
damaged last year by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Meanwhile all of the weather models, including the NHC
model, projected Debby would not hit land as it continued to
move northwest for a couple more days before turning northeast
toward Europe later this week.

The NHC expects Debby to strengthen into the season's first
hurricane in about three days. If Debby becomes a hurricane,
the center projected it would be a weak Category 1 hurricane.
Category 1 hurricanes have wind speeds of 74 to 95 mph.

Debby, with winds near 45 mph, was located about 845 miles
west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands.