Epsilon at hurricane force again in open Atlantic

Epsilon unexpectedly strengthened again into a rare December hurricane on Sunday in the open Atlantic, where it posed no threat to land.

The 26th named storm of the record-breaking hurricane season had top sustained winds near 80 mph (128 kph), down from 85 mph (137 kph) earlier in the day, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Cooler waters, higher wind shear and drier air should cause Epsilon to gradually weaken, hurricane specialist Lixion Avila said. Epsilon first reached hurricane strength on Friday and is the 14th hurricane of the season.

Epsilon had been downgraded early Sunday to a tropical storm with sustained winds of 70 mph (112 kph); hurricanes have winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph).

At 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT), Epsilon's large eye was centered about 665 miles (1,070 kilometers) west-southwest of the Azores and moving east near 12 mph (19 kph), forecasters said.

The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and officially ended on Wednesday.

Epsilon was only the fifth hurricane to form in December in more than 150 years of records, according to the National Hurricane Center. The latest that a hurricane has formed in the Caribbean was Dec. 30, in 1954, AP reported. V.A.

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