The line of demarcation between a tropical storm and a hurricane is, obviously, somewhat arbitrary in nature. Why should the official cutoff point be sustained winds of 74 miles per hour, rather than 73 mph or 75 mph? Defined in terms of their true meteorological species, all three storms are tropical cyclones–period.
From a psychological point of view, however, the question of whether Florida gets hit by a “hurricane” this early in the season, as opposed to a mere “tropical storm,” obviously makes a lot of difference. So that’s what everyone is going to be watching for. The latest advisory from the guys at the National Hurricane Center–written in their inimitable all caps elliptical style–makes it clear that this one is going to be close: “A FORECAST OF ALBERTO POSSIBLY REACHING HURRICANE STRENGTH BEFORE LANDFALL APPEARS TO STILL BE IN ORDER.”