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Atlantic season's 1st tropical storm forms near Belize

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  • NEW: Storm could re-emerge into Gulf of Mexico and regain intensity
  • Storm's maximum sustained winds near 40 mph
  • Storm forecast to dump up to 10 to 15 inches of rain over Belize
  • 2008 hurricane season begins Sunday
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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Arthur, the first named storm of the 2008 Atlantic season, formed Saturday near the coast of Belize, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

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Tropical Storm Arthur could make its way across the Yucatan and re-emerge in the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm made its way over land and was expected to weaken, but the center said the storm could re-emerge in the Gulf of Mexico and regain intensity Sunday.

At 11 p.m., the center of Arthur was over the southern Yucatan Peninsula, about 80 miles (125 km) west of Chetumal, Mexico, and about 120 miles (195 km) south-southeast of Campeche, Mexico.

It was moving west at about 7 miles (11 km) per hour.

The storm's maximum sustained winds were near 40 mph (65 km/hr), with higher gusts, mainly over water east of its center. Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 260 miles (415 km) from the center of the storm, forecasters said.

The government of Belize issued a tropical storm warning for the nation's coast, and the government of Mexico issued a tropical storm warning from Cabo Catoche south to the border with Belize.

A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area -- in this case, within the next six to 12 hours.

The storm was forecast to dump up to 10 inches of rain over Belize, up to 15 inches in isolated areas, the hurricane center said.

The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season begins Sunday.

On Thursday, Tropical Storm Alma, the first one of the year in the eastern Pacific, formed near the west coast of Central America, according to the National Weather Service. The storm was downgraded to a tropical depression and dissipated over the high terrain of Central America.

The federal government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted this month that the Atlantic season would be more active than normal, with up to 16 named storms and up to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or above.

The noted Colorado State University hurricane forecasting team predicted this year that there would be 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

The team calculated a 69 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coast.

A survey released this week found that 50 percent of 1,100 adults surveyed in Atlantic and U.S. Gulf Coast states did not have disaster plans or survival kits.

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"Nearly one in three said they would not prepare their home until a storm is within 24 hours of landfall," Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center, said Thursday.

"Now is the time to buy all that stuff," he said upon the release of the survey by polling firm Mason-Dixon.

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