August 24, 2006

New storm brews in Caribbean as Debby stays away

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - A spinning band of squalls in the
southeastern Caribbean was on the verge of becoming a new
tropical storm on Thursday, while Tropical Storm Debby steered
over the open Atlantic well away from land, forecasters said.

The Caribbean weather disturbance was already pelting the
Windward Islands with gusty rain and could strengthen into
Tropical Storm Ernesto by Friday, forecasters at the
Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

It was classified as Tropical Depression No. 5 and would
become a named storm when its sustained whirlwinds reach 39
miles per hour.

"It's very, very close to that threshold now," said James
Franklin, a senior hurricane specialist at the center.

It was about 455 miles southwest of Martinique, one of the
Windward Islands of the southern Caribbean, and was moving
west, away from those islands, at about 22 mph (35 kph).

It was expected to follow a northwesterly course across the
Caribbean, with the potential to reach the Gulf of Mexico by
the middle of next week.

The system was expected to dump up to 4 inches of rain on
Trinidad and Tobago and on the Windwards, tiny islands that
include Martinique, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia and St.
Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the eastern Atlantic, Tropical Storm Debby -- the fourth
of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season -- had top winds of 50
mph (80 kph). Forecasters expected it to strengthen over the
next four days and possibly become the season's first

It would become a hurricane if sustained winds reach 74 mph
(119 kph). But as Debby moves over warmer waters that add fuel
to tropical cyclones, it will also encounter shearing winds
that could rip it apart.

Debby's most likely path will keep it over the open
Atlantic, where it was only a threat to ships, forecasters

Debby was about 1,080 miles west-northwest of the Cape
Verde Islands and moving west-northwest at 20 mph (32 kph). It
was expected to curve to the northeast early next week, away
from the United States.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to
November 30, has been fairly quiet, but storm formation
typically ramps up from mid-August to late October.

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