Tropical storms Gabrielle, Humberto swirl in Atlantic

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Gabrielle regenerated and bore down on Bermuda on Tuesday while Tropical Storm Humberto strengthened to the verge of becoming the season's first Atlantic hurricane, forecasters said.

The burst of activity came right on schedule as the Atlantic-Caribbean storm season hit its traditional peak.

Gabrielle was about 55 miles south Bermuda on Tuesday afternoon and forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was expected to pass over the mid-Atlantic island by nightfall.

Its top winds had jumped to 60 mph, up from 40 mph earlier, and a slight further increase in strength seemed likely, the forecasters said.

They said Bermuda was already being lashed by rough seas, heavy wind gusts and rain and several flights to the island had been canceled in anticipation of the storm.

The affluent British territory has strict building codes and tends to withstand tropical storms without major damage.

Gabrielle first formed last week in the northeastern Caribbean, soaking Puerto Rico as it crossed into the Atlantic. It fizzled quickly, but regrouped during the weekend and became a tropical storm again on Tuesday.

On its current track, after dusting Bermuda, Gabrielle should curve north toward Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, the hurricane center said. It was expected to remain a tropical storm until it approached Newfoundland on Saturday.

Tropical Storm Humberto formed on Monday in the eastern Atlantic near the African Coast and brushed by the southern Cape Verde Islands. It was about 245 miles west of Cape Verde on Tuesday afternoon, headed northwest over open waters and posed no threat to land.

Humberto had top winds of 70 mph and was expected to cross the 74 mph threshold to become a hurricane on Tuesday or early Wednesday.

It is the eighth tropical storm of the Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 and historically peaks on September 10. But it would be the first this year to reach hurricane strength.

The first hurricane of the season usually forms by August 10. Since the dawn of the satellite era in the mid-1960s, the latest date for the first hurricane to arrive was set in 2002 when Hurricane Gustav made its debut on September 11.

If Humberto reaches hurricane status after 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) on Wednesday, it would replace Gustav as the modern-day record holder, the forecasters in Miami said.

(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Tom Brown and Eric Walsh)

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