Hurricane Aletta forms off Mexico’s Pacific coast

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Tropical Storm Aletta has strengthened into a category one hurricane off Mexico’s Pacific coast, making it the first hurricane of the year in the Eastern Pacific basin, forecasters say. There is no threat to land.

As of 3 p.m. MT on Thursday, the center of Aletta was located about 730 kilometers (455 miles) southwest of Manzanillo in Mexico. The hurricane is moving towards the northwest at a speed of 9 kilometers (6 miles) per hour, which will keep it well away from land.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said maximum sustained winds have increased to 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour with higher gusts, making it a category one hurricane. Additional strengthening is forecast through Saturday, but Aletta is not expected to become a category two storm.

Forecasters are also keeping an eye on a tropical wave which is located a few hundred kilometers (miles) southwest of Guatemala. A tropical depression is likely to form by early next week while the system moves westward off the coast of southern Mexico.

With the formation of Aletta, the hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific basin is off to an early start. The average day for the first hurricane to form in the Eastern Pacific is June 26, although hurricanes are not unheard of before that date.

According to figures released in May, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is expecting a near-normal or above-normal season in the Eastern Pacific basin. The outlook calls for 14 to 20 named storms, including 7 to 12 hurricanes, of which 3 to 7 become major hurricanes (category 3 or higher).

An average Eastern Pacific hurricane season produces 15 to 16 named storms, with eight to nine becoming hurricanes and four becoming major hurricanes. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through November 30, with peak activity from July through September.

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