BOSTON — Tropical Storm Humberto may grow into the Atlantic's first hurricane far to the east of North America, and forecasters don't see any other immediate threats.
Humberto is expected to reach hurricane level, with winds of at least 74 miles per hour, as early as today, according to the National Hurricane Center. If it does, it would miss setting a record for the latest such a storm has formed since satellites have been able to watch the entire Atlantic basin, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the center in Miami.
The record is 8 a.m. New York time on Sept. 11.
"With records going back to 1851, there are 12 years when the first hurricane materialized on or after today," Feltgen said in an email interview. "The all-time record latest is October 8, 1905."
Eight tropical storms have formed in the Atlantic so far this season, which began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. The systems are followed closely by energy and commodity markets because they can disrupt supply and demand of petroleum products, natural gas and crops.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 6 percent of U.S. natural gas output, 23 percent of oil production and more than 45 percent of petroleum refining capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
Humberto was 85 miles south-southeast of Fogo, Cape Verde Islands, at 11 a.m. New York time, the hurricane center said. It was expected to take a turn to the north.
There is a chance that the storm may hold itself together and take a more westerly path at some point in the next 10 days, so Michael Schlacter, founder of Weather 2000 Inc. in New York, said he can't write it off completely.
"It could easily bend back and start a whole new chapter in the eastern Atlantic a week from now," Schlacter said by telephone.
Other areas of concern
Aside from Humberto, the hurricane center is tracking the remnants of the short-lived Tropical Storm Gabrielle, on Monday about 500 miles south-southwest of Bermuda. It has a 20 percent chance of reorganizing into a system in the next five days.
In addition, a low pressure area may form over the Bay of Campeche in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico that could become a tropical system in the next five days, according to the hurricane center.
Schlacter said it's worth "keeping an eye" on both.
"Right now we're fine, but we still have six more weeks where these storms can have an impact," Schlacter said. "We're just one week into the most active month of the season."
The statistical peak is Sept. 10, according to the hurricane center. The most active part of the season is from the middle of August to the beginning of October.
Conditions are ripe for development and there is no telling when the right collection of thunderstorms will spark some activity, Schlacter said.
"There aren't a lot of hindering forces in the Atlantic right now," Schlacter said. "The Atlantic is almost like a boiling pot of water, and where those heat bubbles are going to come up, no one can say."