From: Reuters
Published December 10, 2007 10:35 PM

Subtropical storm Olga forms in Caribbean

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Subtropical storm Olga formed over the Virgin Islands on Monday, and prompted a tropical storm warning for the Dominican Republic as it headed west over the Caribbean, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The Miami-based center issued a special statement at about 8:30 p.m. EST saying satellite, radar and surface observations indicated that an area of low pressure centered over the Virgin Islands had developed into the rare post-season subtropical storm.

Subtropical cyclones have some of the same characteristics as the more familiar tropical storms and hurricanes, but have a cooler core that can slow their development.

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At 10 p.m. EST, Olga's center was about 55 miles

east of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and about 300 miles (485 km) east of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican government had posted a tropical storm warning -- indicating storm conditions were expected within 24 hours -- along the country's north coast.

The storm was moving west near 15 miles per hour on a track that would bring its center near the coast of Puerto Rico later on Monday night and near or over the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, the hurricane center said.

Olga was a minimal tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 kph), barely above minimal tropical storm strength of 39 mph. It was expected to dump up to 6 inches of rain in some parts of Puerto Rico and up to 10 inches in isolated areas of Hispaniola, the island that is home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The latest computer models had the storm moving over Hispaniola toward Jamaica and ultimately on a path to Central America. They agreed it would stay well south of the Gulf of Mexico.

Energy traders watch for storms that could enter the Gulf and threaten the U.S. oil and gas production facilities.

The six-month Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and ends on November 30, but storms have formed in the region in every month of the year.

Tropical storms thrive when the seas are warm, so December storms are unusual though not unprecedented in the Atlantic. Six tropical storms have strengthened into hurricanes in December since record-keeping began in 1851, including Epsilon in 2005, the busiest Atlantic season on record.

That year also saw Tropical Storm Zeta form on December 30.

(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Miami; editing by Eric Walsh)

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