2007 Atlantic Storm Season Sees First Hurricane

The 2007 Atlantic Storm Season finally has its first named hurricane. At 1400 hours (EST), Hurricane Dean’s center was located near latitude 13.8 north and 55.5 west longitude, or about 350 miles east of Barbados and about 455 miles east of Martinique. With maximum sustained winds of nearly 90 MPH, the storm has been described by the National Weather Service as extremely dangerous. The season’s first hurricane was last tracked moving westward at about 23 miles per hour. Given this track, the storm could move in close proximity to the Lesser Antilles by early Friday. Beyond this, the storm is expected to strengthen during the next 24 hours. Hurricane warnings have been issued for the islands of Dominica and St. Lucia and hurricane watches are also in effect for Martinique and Guadeloupe. At present, Dean is a Category One hurricane, with hurricane force winds extending outwards up to 30 miles from the center. A U.S. Air Force Reserve "hurricane hunter" aircraft is expected to fly into Dean to get a better look at the storm later today. A significant portion of U.S. oil and gas production -- and refining capacity -- is located in and around the U.S. Gulf Coast. Producers and refiners are therefore watching the storm closely, especially with the memories of Ivan, Katrina and Rita still fresh in their minds. Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Erin weakened into a depression as it came ashore in south Texas. The storm is expected to dump large volumes of rain and some strong winds along the coast and farther inland. The especially busy hurricane season forecasted by experts earlier this year has so far not developed, but the season is far from over. The Atlantic hurricane season is officially from June 1 to November 30.