Sixth named storm of season forms far out in open Atlantic

Tropical Storm Florence formed Tuesday in the open Atlantic, becoming the sixth named storm of the 2006 hurricane season, and was likely to grow.

Florence had top sustained wind near 64 kph (40 mph), 1.61 kilometers (1 mph) over the 24.23 miles (39 mph)threshold for a tropical storm, and it was expected to slowly intensify to hurricane strength, according to the National Hurricane Center.

"Our forecast does have it becoming a hurricane by Friday morning _ minimal hurricane, Category 1," said Mark Willis, a meteorologist at the hurricane center.

Hurricanes have sustained wind of at least 119.09 kilometers (74 mph); Category 1 storms have top sustained wind of up to 152.88 kilometers(95 mph).

It was still too early to tell if it would hit the United States, Willis said.

At 1500 GMT, the storm was centered 1505 kilometers (935 miles) east of the Lesser Antilles and was moving west at about 19 kph (12 mph), forecasters said. Its tropical storm-force wind extended 185.07 kilometers (115 miles) from its center.

Florence developed at the peak of the hurricane season over warm Atlantic water, the source of energy for storm development, Willis said.

"It's nothing like we saw last year, but the waters are still warm enough to favor tropical storms and hurricanes and intensification," Willis said.

The storm follows on the heels of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which was briefly the season's first hurricane before hitting Florida and North Carolina last week as a tropical storm, reports AP.