October 27, 2005

Tropical Storm Beta gathering force off Nicaragua

MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Beta formed off the
Caribbean coast of Nicaragua on Thursday and was forecast to
strengthen into a hurricane and drench Central America with
potentially flooding rain, the U.S. National Hurricane Center

Storm alerts were posted for the Nicaraguan coast and the
adjacent islands. Forecasters said the storm could dump 15
inches of rain on western Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua,
with isolated amounts up to 20 inches.

At 8 a.m., Beta had top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph)
and was about 135 miles east-southeast of Bluefields,

The storm was moving slowly northwest at four mph (six kph)
in the warm Caribbean and was expected to strengthen into a
Category 1 hurricane, with top winds of at least 74 mph (119
kph), before moving over the Nicaraguan coast by Saturday.

Beta was the 23rd named tropical cyclone of the unrelenting
and record-breaking Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season. No.
22, named Alpha, broke the record for the number of storms set
in 1933 and made 2005 the most active hurricane season since
records began 150 years ago.

Weather forecasters switched to the Greek alphabet for
storm names after using up their annual list of 21 names for
the season with Wilma, which was at one point the most intense
hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. It ravaged
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and southern Florida and killed 28
people in Florida, the Bahamas, Haiti and Mexico.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs through November 30.