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First Tropical Storm of 2005 Aims at U.S. Gulf Coast

First Tropical Storm of 2005 Aims at U.S. Gulf

The season's first tropical storm has formed in the Caribbean, prompting warnings for parts of Cuba and a prediction of eventual landfall in Florida or elsewhere along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Tropical Storm Arlene had sustained winds of 40 mph early Thursday after developing into a named storm from a tropical depression yesterday.

"Some additional slow strengthening is possible during the next 24 hours," according to a statement Thursday morning from the National Hurricane Center.

A satellite view shows the storm's broad reach is already sending clouds over Florida. As of now, the storm is not expected to develop into a hurricane, however.

Arlene represents a fairly early start to the season, which began officially June 1. The busiest months are traditionally August and September. Last year's first tropical storm did not form until Aug. 1.

A tropical storm warning is now in effect for western Cuba from Pinar Del Rio to the Havana province. Heavy rain is already spreading across the Cayman islands and into Cuba. Heavy rains and flash floods could also hit Nicaragua and Honduras, officials said.

At 8 a.m. ET Arlene was 185 miles west of Grand Cayman island and about 190 miles south-southeast of the western tip of Cuba.

Tropical storm winds run from 39 mph to 74 mph, the threshold for hurricane status.

Arlene is expected to come ashore somewhere between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle over the weekend [Map].

"Interests elsewhere in the northwestern Caribbean and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico should closely monitor the progress of this system," the statement from the hurricane center read.

The Atlantic basin hurricane season began June 1. Forecasters said they expect a busy year again on the heels of last year's battering of Florida and other states.

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Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at Space.com starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.