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New tropical depression forms in Atlantic as Irene pummels Bahamas, continues to strengthen

As Irene prompted the National Hurricane Center to declare a hurricane watch for North Carolina and sent waves 11 feet above normal colliding with shorelines in the Bahamas, another tropical depression formed in the Atlantic.

Forecasters said this depression will likely become Tropical Storm Jose Thursday.

The depression is centered about 435 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands and is moving west-northwest across the Atlantic with winds of 35 miles per hour, according to the hurricane center.

While this storm is too far out and its path too uncertain to pose any threat to the U.S., forecasters are keeping an eye on what could become the tenth named storm of the season.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Irene's 115-mile-per-hour winds and "dangerous" waves continued to batter the Bahamas early Thursday on its way toward North Carolina, experts said.

The Category 3 storm was expected to spend Thursday night and early Friday morning moving along Florida's east coast, about 150 miles from the shore.

Experts said wind speeds could intensify up to 135 miles per hour along the way, bumping Irene to Category 4 status.

The hurricane is still expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday and then travel up the east coast as far north as New York or Boston.

Although the storm's path remains uncertain, projections that pushed Irene's path farther east and out to sea have been scrapped, instead forecasters said the hurricane will move back west, toward the U.S. coast, once Irene passes Florida and Georgia.

Before it reaches the outer banks of North Carolina, where it is expected to make landfall, Irene may lose some steam over cooler waters near the U.S. coastline, experts said.

But Irene is not expected to lose hurricane status, maintaining sustained gusts of up to 85 miles per hour, experts said.

The formation of another tropical depression in the Atlantic as Irene continues along its path is emblematic of the season.

August 15 marked the beginning of what's known as Cape Verde season, when strong storms born off the coast of Africa speed across the Atlantic, growing stronger as they approach the Caribbean.

Hurricane formation near the Cape Verde islands is particularly active throughout the season.

New tropical depression forms in Atlantic as Irene pummels Bahamas, continues to strengthen 08/25/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 25, 2011 6:57am]
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