Tropical Storm Zeta is gaining strength with sustained winds of 400 kilometres as it skirts past Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

Waves splash at the seafront Malecon during the passage of the Tropical Storm Laura in Havana, Cuba, August 24, 2020.
Waves splash at the seafront Malecon during the passage of the Tropical Storm Laura in Havana, Cuba, August 24, 2020. (Reuters)

Tropical Storm Zeta is forming off the coast of Cuba, becoming the earliest named 27th Atlantic storm recorded in an already historic hurricane season.

The system was centered about 400 kilometres south-southeast of the western tip of Cuba, forecasters with the US National Hurricane Center said on Sunday.

Zeta was stationary, located near the Yucatan Peninsula about 415 kilometres 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.

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The tropical storm had maximum sustained winds of 65km/h, forecasters said. 

The system was expected to reorganise 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.

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Zeta broke the record of the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed November 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 10 to 20 centimetres of rain to parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, southern Florida and the Florida Keys through Wednesday. 

Isolated totals up to 30 centimetres  were possible.

Source: AP