Gordon strengthens, Tropical Storm Helene forms over Atlantic

Thursday, September 14th 2006, 8:59 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Tropical Storm Helene moved quickly in the open Atlantic early Thursday, while Hurricane Gordon gained strength but posed no threat to land, forecasters said.

The remnants of Hurricane Florence, which had raked southern Newfoundland in Canada with 100 mph wind gusts and rain on Wednesday, damaging roads, ripping shingles from roofs and knocking out power, moved away from the coast on Thursday. The Canadian Hurricane Center said the winds should decrease through the day.

Helene had top sustained winds near 40 mph Thursday morning, just above the 39-mph threshold for a tropical storm. The eighth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season formed late Wednesday night.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Helene was centered 695 miles west of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and moving west over warm Atlantic waters at 22 mph, forecasters said. A gradual turn toward the west-northwest was expected over the next 24 hours.

Gordon was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane late Wednesday when its top sustained winds jumped to 120 mph, up from 110 mph earlier in the day, forecasters said.

The hurricane was moving out to sea and was no threat to land, according to the hurricane center. Gordon's clearly defined eye was centered about 550 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and moving north-northeast at near 13 mph. Some gradual weakening was expected over the next 24 hours, forecasters said.

``Although Gordon's eye remains distinct, it has become smaller and a little less well-defined,'' said Richard Knabb, a senior hurricane specialist.

Some waves could reach Bermuda, but the British territory should not feel tropical storm force winds, forecasters said.

The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. The National Hurricane Center's latest forecast for the season expects between seven and nine hurricanes, a slight reduction from earlier predictions.

Federal scientists said Wednesday that the season hasn't been as busy because weak El Nino conditions have developed in the tropical Pacific.

El Nino means higher ocean temperatures that inhibit hurricanes by increasing crosswinds over the Caribbean. This vertical wind shear can rip storms apart or even stop them from forming. But National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists warned that the El Nino impacts on hurricanes have been small so far.

``We are still in the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season, and conditions remain generally conducive for hurricane formation,'' said Gerry Bell, the agency's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.