- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Florence formed far out in the open Atlantic yesterday, and forecasters said it probably will become a hurricane.

But they deemed it too soon to tell whether the sixth named storm of the Atlantic season would reach the United States.

Florence had sustained wind of about 45 mph, 6 mph more than the threshold for a tropical storm. The minimum for a hurricane is 74 mph.

“Our forecast does have it becoming a hurricane by Friday morning — minimal hurricane, Category 1,” National Hurricane Center meteorologist Mark Willis said.

At 5 p.m. yesterday, the storm was centered 960 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, or about 2,100 miles southeast of Miami, and was moving northwest at about 12 mph.

The storm comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which was briefly the season’s first hurricane before weakening and hitting Florida and North Carolina last week. It had formed over the southern Caribbean on Aug. 25.

At least nine deaths in the United States were blamed on Ernesto, which also killed two persons in Haiti, delayed the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and blacked out thousands of homes and businesses from North Carolina to New York state.

Last year’s Atlantic storm season had a record 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, including Katrina.

The 2006 Atlantic season has not been as rough as initially feared. The National Hurricane Center lowered its forecast last month to between 12 and 15 named storms and seven to nine hurricanes.

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