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18 July 2011

Plane to check out weather disturbance off Florida

(Reuters) - A low pressure area off central Florida's Atlantic Coast had a 40 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone in the next two days, forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.

It was too early to know whether the system could threaten U.S. energy operations in the Gulf of Mexico, or whether it could affect Thursday's landing of the space shuttle Atlantis in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The broad patch of showers and thunderstorms was centered about 125 miles east of Melbourne, Florida. Hurricane center forecasters said upper-level winds had become more conducive for cyclone development and an Air Force Reserve "hurricane hunter" plane would investigate the disturbance.

If it develops rotating winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 km per hour), it would become Tropical Storm Bret, the second storm of the Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season that runs from June 1 to November 30.

The disturbance had moved little on Sunday and computer models varied widely as to its projected path. Some showed it moving northeast toward North Carolina or the open Atlantic, while others projected it would cut across central Florida into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

-Reuters