Tropical Zeta forms in Atlantic Ocean month after season ended

&to=' target=_blank>Tropical Storm Zeta formed Friday in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, another installment in a record-breaking hurricane season that officially ended last month.

Zeta, the 27th storm of the season, developed about 1,000 miles (1.609 kilometers) south-southwest of the Azores islands, the National Hurricane Center reported. At noon EST (1700 GMT), Zeta had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (805 kph) and was moving northwest near 8 mph (13 kph).

It was not likely to threaten land, hurricane center forecaster Martin Nelson said.

"We believe this will be simply a problem for maritime interests," Nelson said.

Although some strengthening was possible, Zeta was expected to begin weakening Saturday, forecasters said. Tropical storms develop when their winds exceed 39 mph.

Zeta is the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet, which forecasters turned to after they used up _ for the first time _ their list of 21 proper names for storms. The record for tropical storms and hurricanes in a season had been 21, set in 1933 before such storms were regularly named.

Nelson said it was not immediately known if Dec. 30 was the latest date for the formation of a tropical storm in the Atlantic. But earlier this month, Hurricane Epsilon became only the fifth hurricane to form in December in 154 years of record-keeping. Hurricanes form when their winds exceed 74 mph (119 kph).

The latest-developing hurricane, dubbed Alice, formed on Dec. 30, 1954, and lasted until Jan. 5, 1955, Nelson said.

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