MIAMI – The long, strange life of Zeta continued Thursday as it again strengthened into a tropical storm and could break the record for the storm that lasted the longest into January since record keeping began in 1851.
Zeta, which poses no threat to land, is the last and 27th named storm in a tumultuous, record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season that officially ended more than a month ago. At 10 a.m., it had top sustained winds near 40 mph, up from a tropical depression with winds of 35 mph earlier in the day, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Zeta's first incarnation as a tropical storm lasted from Dec. 30 to around 4 a.m. Thursday. Its second chance as a storm shouldn't last more than a day, because another weather system should come along and "decapitate" Zeta with strong wind shear, hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart said.
"This thing has been very tenacious," he said. "It's probably its last gasp."
It is only the second Atlantic storm in recorded history to survive into January, joining Hurricane Alice in 1955. After Zeta dissipates, Stewart said, forecasters will review records to determine whether it or Alice lasted longest into January.
Although the 2005 hurricane season officially ended Nov. 30, hurricane specialist Jack Beven said the season is "not officially over until we write the last advisory, which will be in the next day or two."
The 2006 season officially begins June 1, but any tropical storms that form early would be part of its tally. The first name on the list is Alberto.
At 10 a.m. EST, Zeta was centered about 1,045 miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands and moving west-northwest near 10 mph.
The 2005 season set record for the most named storms, most hurricanes (14) and most top-scale Category 5 hurricanes. Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and Mississippi in August and became the most costly disaster in U.S. history.
Before Zeta, Hurricane Epsilon became only the fifth hurricane to form in December in 154 years of record keeping. The 2005 season marked the first time that the Greek alphabet was used to name storms because the list of proper names was exhausted.
Forecasters predict that hurricane seasons will be more active than usual for at least another decade.