July 22, 2010 / 10:22 PM / 10 years ago

Tropical Storm Bonnie forms near the Bahamas

MIAMI (Reuters) - A tropical storm formed near the Bahamas on Thursday on a track that could take it over BP’s oil spill site in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Bonnie, the second named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, was packing maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour.

Weather models project the storm will skirt south of Florida and swirl northwest across the oil-rich central Gulf of Mexico, near where BP is cleaning up its massive oil spill, before hitting the Louisiana or Texas coasts.

Forecasters say this year’s hurricane season could be the worst since 2005, when Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma caused havoc in the Gulf Coast, damaging oil rigs and refineries and forcing sharp cuts in production.

Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history when in flooded New Orleans, as well as one of the country’s deadliest hurricanes.

The hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 and often affects the Gulf of Mexico, home to about 30 percent of U.S. oil production, 11 percent of natural gas production, and more than 43 percent of U.S. refinery capacity.

Hurricane Alex, the season’s first hurricane, drenched the Texas-Mexico border on April 1 as it made landfall as a Category 2 storm, spawning tornadoes and flooding towns, but it spared U.S. oil wells.

Reporting by Tom Brown, Editing by Philip Barbara.

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