MIAMI – Tropical Storm Beryl, the second named storm of 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, formed off the North Carolina coast Tuesday and a tropical storm watch was issued for the eastern part of the state.
At about 5 p.m. EDT, a hurricane reconnaissance aircraft reported that the storm's maximum sustained winds were at least 40 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was centered about 180 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras and was moving toward the north at about 6 mph.
A slow turn toward the north-northwest or northwest was expected later Tuesday or Wednesday.
Early indications were that the system's sustained wind wouldn't reach 74 mph, the threshold for a hurricane, said hurricane specialist Jamie Rhome.
The early forecast track indicated that the system could drift toward the west and be near the North Carolina coast by the middle or later part of the week, Rhome said.
The tropical storm watch, indicating tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours, extended along the coast from north of Cape Lookout to south of Currituck Beach Light.
"We are watching the storm very closely. With the projected track at this point we're not anticipating problems, but certainly things can change quickly," said Dorothy Toolan, a spokeswoman for Dare County, N.C., which includes the state's northern Outer Banks.
The first named storm of the June-November Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Alberto, splashed ashore in Florida in mid-June, then plowed northward along the coast past North Carolina's Outer Banks. It was blamed for one drowning.
Experts say the Atlantic Ocean is in the middle of a cycle of increased hurricane activity. Last year, there were a record 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, including destructive Katrina.