Atlantic Storm Nears Hurricane Strength
Tropical Storm Peter
formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean
on Tuesday and strengthened rapidly, extending a busy hurricane
season that officially ended nine days ago.
It was a threat only to shipping
interests but had top winds of 70 mph and could reach hurricane strength of 74 mph by Wednesday, forecasters said.
Peter was the second tropical storm since the Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season ended on Nov. 30. Tropical Storm Odette
killed 10 people when it pounded the Dominican Republic
with rain during the weekend, flooding rivers and triggering deadly mudslides.
Tropical Storm Peter was about 800 miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde
Islands. Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center expected it to weaken and fall apart as it moved north-northeast far from land.
It was the 16th named storm of the 2003 Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season, already one of the busiest on record
, and marked the first time since 1887 that two tropical storms formed in the region in December, the hurricane center said.
Forecasters were hard-pressed to explain the busy post-season, except to say all the conditions necessary to spawn a tropical cyclone were in place -- a low pressure area, a mass of thunderstorms and warm ocean waters.
"That part of the Atlantic, it takes longer to cool off," hurricane specialist Lixion Avila said. "We hope that this is it."
The 2003 hurricane season also got off to an early start, when Tropical Storm Ana
formed in April more than a month before the official start of the season on June 1.