updated 1/6/2006 11:23:20 AM ET 2006-01-06T16:23:20

Tropical Storm Zeta weakened into a depression Friday as it traveled through the open Atlantic, and forecasters were trying to determine if it had broken the record for a storm season’s latest survivor.

By 10 a.m. ET, its top sustained winds had dropped to near 35 mph, 4 mph below the threshold to be a storm, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was about 915 miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands, moving west at 9 mph.

The “disheveled” remnants were likely to dissipate by afternoon or evening, hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart said.

“The combination of strong northwesterly wind shear and very dry air ahead of the system should be enough to finally bring the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season to an end,” he said.

Zeta was the 27th and final named storm in the tumultuous, record-breaking season that officially closed Nov. 30.

Zeta, which formed Dec. 30, 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.

The 2005 season had 14 hurricanes including Katrina, which devastated Louisiana and Mississippi in August and became the costliest 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.

The long-term average is 10 tropical storms per season, with six strengthening into hurricanes. But forecasters have said that hurricane seasons are going to be more active than usual for at least another decade — and possibly as long as 50 years.

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