- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

12:28 p.m.

MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Florence formed today in the open Atlantic, becoming the sixth named storm of the 2006 hurricane season.

Florence had top sustained winds near 40 mph, 1 mph over the 39 mph threshold for a tropical storm, and it was expected to intensify slowly over the next few days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Its tropical-storm-force winds extended 115 miles from its center but posed no immediate threat to land.

At 11 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered 935 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and was moving west at about 12 mph, forecasters said.

Florence follows Tropical Storm Ernesto, which was briefly the season’s first hurricane before hitting Florida and North Carolina last week as a tropical storm.

At least nine deaths have been attributed to Ernesto, and the aftereffects were still being felt today. About 60,000 people remained without power in New York’s Westchester County. “The storm hit us harder than we expected,” Con Edison spokesman Alfonso Quiroz said.

In Huntington, N.Y., a tree that was believed to be about 550 years old was weakened by the storm and fell Sunday. The tree, believed to be the oldest black oak in North America, once was 90 feet tall.

In North Carolina, the overflowing Northeast Cape Fear River began to recede Monday, although forecasters said the waterway probably would not be back to normal levels until the end of the week. About 140 people were evacuated in Duplin and Pender counties.

Last year’s Atlantic storm season set a record with 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, including Katrina, which devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season has not been as rough as initially feared. The National Hurricane Center lowered its Atlantic storms forecast in August to between 12 and 15 named storms and seven to nine hurricanes. Forecaster William Gray downgraded his expectations for the season Friday to 13 named storms and five hurricanes, which would be a slightly below-average season.

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