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Tropical Storm Colin Forms East of Antilles Islands

Tropical storm Colin, approaching the southeastern Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic, was upgraded from a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center said today.

The system with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) an hour is about 945 miles east of the Lesser Antilles islands moving west-northwest at 23 mph, the center said on its website.

The latest advisory places the system one mile per hour above the threshold to be declared a tropical storm. Colin is the third named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Alex broke up after making landfall in northern Mexico just over a month ago.

“Some additional strengthening is forecast during the next 36 hours or so,” the Miami center said in its bulletin as the storm travels across open waters on a track to the northeast and north of the Leeward Islands.

The system is on a likely path that will take it northeast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, curving north and east of the Bahamas and the U.S. East coast between Bermuda later this week and early this weekend.

The precise course the storm takes will affect how strong it gets, Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Pennsylvania, said yesterday. Computer models show if it moves north, it may weaken over cooler waters and have difficulty intensifying due to interference from high altitude winds.

Storm Track

If it takes a more southerly track, the storm may be able to develop to hurricane strength, he said. The 2010 hurricane season, which began June 1, runs through November.

Large storms are a threat to oil and natural gas platforms in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and agriculture in the Southern states. Florida is the second-largest citrus producer behind Brazil, and the Gulf accounts for 31 percent of U.S. oil output and 43 percent of the country’s refining capacity.

The projected path of Colin well to the east will not affect BP Plc’s efforts to permanently plug its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.

The well spewed 4.1 million barrels of crude into the Gulf during the 87 days before it was capped on July 15, a U.S. government-appointed team of scientists said yesterday.

Alex, the earliest hurricane of the Atlantic storm season since 1995, came ashore in northern Mexico at the end of June. Six oil rigs and 69 production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

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