US forecasters run out of hurricane names

A satellite image shows five tropical cyclones churning in the Atlantic basin on September 14.
A satellite image shows five tropical cyclones churning in the Atlantic basin on September 14.

US forecasters have ran out of traditional names for storms, forcing them to begin using the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s, with more than two months left in the record-shattering hurricane season.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people were still without power along the Alabama coast and the Florida panhandle in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally.

Officials continued to assess millions of dollars in damage that included a broken bridge in Pensacola and ships thrown onto dry land.

Two people in Alabama were reported killed - a drowning and a death during the clean-up in Baldwin County.

In Florida, authorities were looking for a missing kayaker who was feared dead in Escambia County.

The supercharged Atlantic hurricane season has produced so many named storms that scientists ran out of traditional names as Tropical Storm Wilfred developed in the eastern Atlantic.

It was only the second time that has happened since forecasters standardised the naming system in 1953.

Wilfred was weak and far from land.

Two hours after Wilfred took shape, the National Hurricane Center moved to the Greek alphabet when Subtropical Storm Alpha formed just off the coast of Portugal.

Next up is Beta and so on.

Forecasters are watching at least two other systems, including one that is a tropical depression in the western Gulf of Mexico.

The only time the hurricane centre dipped into the Greek alphabet was the deadly 2005 hurricane season, which included Hurricane Katrina's strike on New Orleans.

The prior record for the earliest 21st named storm was Wilma on October 8, 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

Australian Associated Press