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New tropical storm churns toward Caribbean

Tropical Storm Ophelia was churning its way toward the Caribbean Wednesday after intensifying overnight but U.S. forecasters said it was not expected to strengthen into a hurricane.
/ Source: Reuters

Tropical Storm Ophelia was churning its way toward the Caribbean Wednesday after intensifying overnight but U.S. forecasters said it was not expected to strengthen into a hurricane.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ophelia, the 15th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, formed late on Tuesday about midway between Africa and the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles Islands.

It posed little threat to the U.S. coast or energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico.

Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist at the Miami-based NHC, said it was too soon to pinpoint Ophelia's expected track through the Caribbean with any degree of certainty.

Computer models, however, put the storm, packing strong wind gusts and heavy rain squalls, over or near the northern Lesser Antilles by the weekend and just north of Puerto Rico by Monday.

Pasch cautioned Ophelia could weaken considerably or be torn apart by strong upper-level winds in the next few days. "We're looking at some pretty unfavorable winds that would likely keep it from becoming much of a storm," he said.

At 5 p.m. EDT , Ophelia was 1,165 miles east of the Caribbean's Leeward Islands and had top sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, the NHC said.

It said some weakening of the storm was expected in the next two days and that it had already met its likely peak in terms of intensity.