Tropical Storm Zeta forms near Cuba, expected to strengthen

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MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Zeta formed early Sunday off the coast of Cuba, becoming the earliest named 27th Atlantic storm recorded in an already historic hurricane season.

The system was centered about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south-southeast of the western tip of Cuba, forecasters with the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a 2 a.m. EDT advisory.

Zeta was stationary, located near the Yucatan Peninsula about 260 miles (415 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and a tropical storm watch was in effect for Cozumel and for Tulum to Río Lagartos, Mexico.

The tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), forecasters said. The system was expected to reorganize and move to the north-northwest later Sunday, skirting past Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula on Monday before entering the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

Zeta broke the record of the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed Nov. 29, 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

This year’s season has so many storms that the hurricane center has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names.

Forecasters said Zeta could bring 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain to parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, southern Florida and the Florida Keys through Wednesday. Isolated totals up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) were possible.