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Tropical Storm Ike forms, hurricane possible

APTOPIX Gustav Gulf Coast
National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read pauses between live television updates Monday in Miami. Monitors behind him display an infrared satellite image showing, from left to right, Hurricane Gustav, Tropical Storm Hanna and what was then a tropical depression. The latter has since become Tropical Storm Ike, while Hanna has become a hurricane.Andy Newman / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tropical Storm Ike formed Monday in tropical Atlantic waters midway between Africa and the Caribbean, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.

At 5 p.m. ET, the ninth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. It was located about 1,400 miles east of the Leeward Islands, and was moving west-northwest at around 16 mph.

"Some strengthening is forecast and Ike could become a hurricane in a day or two," the center said in its report.

The storm's projected course late Monday would take it toward the Bahamas over the next several days.

Computer models indicated Ike was likely to stick to a westerly path that would later bring it just north of the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The Miami-based hurricane center said Ike could be a "major" hurricane by then. Major hurricanes are those that rank at Category 3 and higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of storm intensity and are the most destructive.

West of Ike is Hurricane Hanna, which earlier Monday had been a tropical storm.

Hurricane Gustav, meanwhile, moved inland over Louisiana on Monday after tearing through the Caribbean and claiming 94 lives. One traffic death was tied to Gustav in Louisiana, and officials along the U.S. Gulf Coast had not yet released damage reports.

The peak of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season usually occurs around Sept. 10, and an average season spawns 10 tropical storms. Six of those strengthen into hurricanes.

Ike's formation, and the possibility of another tropical depression developing in its wake in the coming days, means the storm activity this year is well above normal, bad news for U.S. oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and for the millions living in the Caribbean and on U.S. coasts.