Hurricane Kirk Becomes the Fifth of the Atlantic Season

Kirk became the fifth hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic season when the system’s top winds grew to 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour.

Kirk, now 1,500 miles west-southwest of the Azores, won’t be a threat to the U.S. because it will be steered to the northeast and out to sea, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory and track forecast at 11 a.m. East Coast time.

“High pressure in the Atlantic, sometimes called the Bermuda High, has sunk pretty far south and acts as a block,” said Mark Paquette, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

Eleven named storms, those with winds of at least 39 miles per hour, have formed in the Atlantic so far this year. A system becomes a hurricane when sustained winds reach 74 mph.

Hurricane Isaac, now a tropical storm and losing strength over Louisiana, and Tropical Storm Debby, which struck Florida in June, have been the two most disruptive systems of the year for U.S. markets.

Isaac halted 95 percent of U.S. oil production in the Gulf and 72 percent of natural-gas output as of yesterday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. Six Louisiana refineries were shut and three were running at reduced rates, idling 6.7 percent of U.S. capacity, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Debby pushed New York natural-gas futures to a one-month high in June as about 35 percent of the Gulf’s output was shut.

Forecasters are also tracking newly formed Tropical Storm Leslie, which is expected to grow into a hurricane later this week on a path away from the U.S. and the Caribbean islands. The system is 1,125 miles east of the Windward Islands with top winds of 40 mph.

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