The second tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season took shape July 18 off Cape Hatteras, N.C., where a tropical storm watch was posted. Meteorologists warned that the storm could become Tropical Storm Beryl by July 19.

A tropical depression officially becomes a tropical storm when wind speeds top 39 mph. The threshold for a hurricane is wind speeds of 74 mph, but officials at the National Hurricane Center in Miami were not expecting that result from this storm.

Alberto, the first named storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, visited Florida in mid-June, dumping heavy rains but causing little in the way of damage before chugging up the East Coast past North Carolinas Outer Banks.

The outlook for this season, according to forecasts issued by the National Weather Service on June 1 -- the start of the six-month hurricane season -- called for 17 named storms, nine of which were expected to become hurricanes, and five of which would become major storms with winds of 111 mph or higher.

Last year, there were a record 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, including the destructive Katrina, Rita and Wilma storms.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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