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Ophelia becomes third hurricane churning in Atlantic




National Weather Service

(CNN) -- The latest forecasts place Hurricane Ophelia on a course toward Florida and eliminate the possibility that the Category 1 storm will wander out to sea or swirl south to the Caribbean.

Ophelia morphed into a hurricane Thursday afternoon with 75 mph winds, the National Hurricane Center reported, bringing to three the number of hurricanes simultaneously whipping the Atlantic Ocean.

At 8 p.m. ET Ophelia's center was 75 miles east-northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The storm was stationary, but forecasters said it may begin moving slowly Friday to the northeast, strengthen, then make a loop and barrel into Florida. (Watch the video of storm-weary Floridians preparing for another blow -- 1:50)

Earlier Thursday, forecasters thought the storm could head to the Caribbean or Florida. But during the evening they eliminated that possibility from the five-day forecast.

Hurricanes' erratic movements make long-range forecasts works in progress.

An uncommon looping path is familiar to residents of the hurricane-weary Sunshine State.

Last September, Hurricane Jeanne appeared to be heading out to sea before looping north of the Bahamas and hitting Florida's east coast as a Category 2 hurricane and killing six people.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the east coast of Florida from Sebastian Inlet, south of Melbourne, to Flagler Beach, an area that Ophelia's edges were drubbing Thursday afternoon.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for northeast Florida from Flagler Beach to Fernandina Beach, which means tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours.

Forecasters said 1 to 3 inches of rain were expected across portions of central and northern Florida.

Nate and Maria

The other storms are Hurricanes Nate and Maria.

Thursday evening, Nate, with sustained winds of 85 mph, was heading out into the Atlantic after brushing by Bermuda earlier Thursday.

Maria, with 75 mph sustained winds, was well out in the ocean and posed no immediate threat to land. Forecasters said it was expected to lose its tropical characteristics Friday.

Just a week into September -- historically the most active month for tropical activity -- the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season has seen 15 named storms, six of which reached hurricane strength with winds of at least 74 mph. Four of those became major hurricanes, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the historical averages for a hurricane season are 10 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Those numbers have been met or exceeded this season, which doesn't end until November 30.

The largest number of named storms ever recorded was 21, in 1933, a record that will be broken if just seven more storms develop in the next 12 weeks. And if that happens, the hurricane center will run out of names for the first time since it adopted the system of assigning names to storms in 1953.

The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z aren't used, because few names begin with those letters; the 21st and last name on this year's hurricane list is Wilma. After that, Greek letters will be used to designate storms, beginning with alpha.

The most hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic is 12, in 1969, according to the hurricane center, and the largest number of major hurricanes is eight, in 1950.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers contributed to this report.

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