MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Danny formed in the Atlantic Ocean east of the Bahamas on Wednesday and set a course that could take it near the northeastern U.S. states as a hurricane by the weekend.
The fourth tropical storm of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season posed no foreseeable threat to the Gulf of Mexico oil patch and on its most likely track was expected to stay well out to sea for the next few days, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Danny's first approach to land was likely to come early Saturday, when it would be off the vulnerable coastal islands of North Carolina. By Saturday afternoon it was expected to be nearing the coast around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.
U.S. President Barack Obama is vacationing at nearby Martha's Vineyard this week. Funeral services for Senator Edward Kennedy are scheduled for Saturday in Boston.
A small westward shift in the NHC forecast track could send it ashore in North Carolina. Forecasters say the average error in their forecast three days in advance is about 200 miles.
"The forecast track is roughly parallel to the U.S. East Coast and any deviation from the track could make a large difference in what areas get impacted by Danny," the hurricane center said in a statement.
By early Sunday, Danny was expected to be near the U.S.-Canada border between Maine and New Brunswick.
Canada's Atlantic provinces, drenched over the weekend by Hurricane Bill, looked to be a target again. Danny's expected track would take it farther to the west than Bill, putting New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador all in the danger zone.
Bill, which killed two people in the United States, passed close to eastern Canada's oil, natural gas and refinery operations but did not cause any major damage.
At 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) on Wednesday, Danny's center was located about 390 miles east of Nassau, the Bahamian capital, the hurricane center said.
It was moving to the west-northwest at about 12 miles per hour (19 km per hour) and had sustained winds of about 45 mph, forecasters said.
At its peak, Danny was expected to have sustained winds of about 75 mph, barely hurricane strength.
The Atlantic season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, got off to a slow start this year. No storms formed for the first 2 1/2 months.
But the period from late August to mid-October is historically the busiest time and four tropical storms have formed in the last 11 days.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are tracked closely by energy traders concerned about disruptions to Gulf oil and gas production and by commodities traders for damage to citrus, cotton and other crops.
Pricing of insurance-linked securities, which transfer insurance risks associated with natural disasters to capital markets investors, and can be used to hedge other weather risk exposures, can also be affected by the future path of a storm.
Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Mohammad Zargham