Humberto becomes first hurricane, just missing historic late mark

MIAMI, Fla. — With the clock running down — literally, a digital countdown clock on The Weather Channel — an otherwise unremarkable and unthreatening tropical storm named Humberto fell just short of making history early Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center announced at 5 a.m. that Humberto had reached hurricane strength, leaving it No. 2 on the list of the latest-forming first hurricane in nearly a half century.

Gustav, which was declared a hurricane at 8 a.m., Sept. 11, 2002, retained the record by three hours — at least pending further review. With hurricane season passing its historical peak on Tuesday, there were some signs of increasing activity after a pleasantly quiet first three months.

By evening, Humberto’s winds had increased to 85 mph but it remained thousands of miles from the United States and no threat to land.

In the average year, the first hurricane typically arrives by Aug. 10.

Hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said first hurricanes in September are unusual but not unprecedented. Records dating to 1851 show 15 years when the first hurricane formed after Sept. 5. But Gustav was the latest since 1967 and the dawn of satellite tracking. The all-time latest came on Oct. 8, 1905.