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Epsilon Strengthens, But No Threat

In this satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Tropical Storm Epsilon is seen November 29, 2005. The day before the official end of hurricane season, Epsilon, the record 26th storm of the season, formed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Getty Images/NOAA
Tropical storm Epsilon strengthened into a record 14th hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, two days after the 2005 season officially ended. Forecasters said it posed no threat to land.

"This is only the fifth hurricane we've had in December in more than 120 years," said National Weather Service hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart.

"Generally this late in the year winds in the upper level of the atmosphere are strong enough to strip the strength of storm," Stewart said, "but about every 20 years or so, the atmosphere allows it to happen."

No hurricane has been known to hit the United States between December and May. The latest hurricane to form in the Caribbean occurred Dec. 30, 1954, he said.

Epsilon had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, the threshold for categorizing a storm as a hurricane, at 10 a.m. EST, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Its top sustained winds were near 65 mph earlier in the day.

It continued to turn away from Bermuda, but it could still cause dangerous surf conditions, forecasters said. It was centered about 955 miles, east of Bermuda. Forecasters said Epsilon was moving northeast near 14 mph.

No other major storms appeared on the horizon, Stewart said.

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts six months and officially ended Wednesday. Epsilon is the 26th named storm of the busiest hurricane season on record.

Forecasters say 2006 could be another brutal year because the Atlantic is in a period of frenzied hurricane activity that began in 1995 and could last at least another decade.

Government hurricane experts say the increase is due to a natural cycle of higher sea temperatures, lower wind shear and other factors, though some scientists blame global warming.

CBS News correspondent Jim Acosta reports that forecasters fear the hurricane hyperactivity could drag on for another two decades.

"I would like to be able to stand up here and tell you that next year will not be any more severe than this year," said Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., administrator of NOAA. "But I can't do that."