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Irene becomes 9th named Atlantic storm

MIAMI -- Tropical Storm Irene formed Saturday east of the Caribbean's Leeward Islands and could become a hurricane Monday on a forecast track that takes it through the Caribbean and may threaten Florida.

At 7 p.m., Irene, the ninth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, was packing winds near 50 mph and was about 190 miles east of Dominica, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Irene could be the first hurricane of the busy -- but not destructive -- 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for many of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the Miami-based center said.

Computer forecast models showed Irene taking a northwestward path over Haiti and eastern and central Cuba and then heading up the western side of the Florida peninsula.

Irene might still pose a threat to U.S. oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico, but forecasters say this is too early to predict with certitude.

Irene formed after Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall over Belize Saturday. Maximum sustained winds were 50 mph. Harvey was expected to weaken to a tropical depression today.

-- Combined news reports

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