Tropical Storm Nate Forecast to Strengthen as Lee Drenches U.S. Northeast

Tropical Storm Nate, one of three active weather systems in the Atlantic basin, was forecast to grow stronger today in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche, the National Hurricane Center said.

Nate, with winds of 45 miles (72 kilometers) per hour, was about 125 miles west of Campeche, Mexico, according to an NHC advisory at 8 a.m. New York time. Nate, which along with Hurricane Katia and Tropical Storm Maria is churning over tropical waters, is forecast to turn north tomorrow and may strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph.

Remnants of Tropical Storm Lee caused heavy showers and snarled traffic today in the U.S. Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, the NHC also said. Katia, bearing 90 mph winds, is now 325 miles west of Bermuda and will pass between the island and U.S. East Coast later today and swing northeastward far off Maine and Nova Scotia this weekend, the NHC also said.

Computer models suggest Nate, almost stationary now, may go ashore in Mexico south of its oil- and gas-producing region or near Brownsville, Texas, said Travis Hartman, a meteorologist at the commercial forecaster MDA EarthSat Weather in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“The latest model runs keep it south of the producing region but I don’t think we can write it off just yet by any stretch of the imagination,” Hartman said yesterday.

There is a chance the storm may go farther north, which would threaten U.S. rigs and platforms in the western Gulf of Mexico. The Bay of Campeche holds rigs and platforms owned by Petroleos Mexicanos. The Gulf is home to 27 percent of U.S. oil output and 6.5 percent of the country’s natural gas production.

Nate, Maria, Katia

Nate became the 14th storm to form in the Atlantic region this June-November hurricane season, hours after Tropical Storm Maria.

Maria is about 760 miles east of the Windward Islands with winds of 50 mph. It’s moving west at 23 mph, according to the Miami-based hurricane center. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Nevis and St. Kitts.

“It’s in an environment that isn’t conducive to explosive strengthening,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the NHC. “In fact, we have it as a tropical storm through the end of the five-day forecast period.”

The statistical peak of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season is later this week. This year has produced storms at a faster rate than 2010, when 19 named systems moved through the basin. The 14th storm didn’t form until Sept. 29 last year.

Feltgen said the activity is in line with pre-season forecasts for an above-average storm season. A typical season produces 11 named systems, according to the hurricane center.

Atlantic History

Since 1995, when the Atlantic entered a warming phase, the seasonal average has been 15, said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground Inc. in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The only things that have kept storm numbers down since then are El Nino events, warmings of the central Pacific Ocean, Feltgen said. El Nino creates wind shear in the Atlantic that tears at storms. The most active hurricane season on record was 2005, when 28 storms formed.

“If we continue on this pace, we are going to challenge 2005,” said Masters, who used to fly on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane reconnaissance planes. “That would make three of the last six years among the top five busiest hurricane seasons on record.”

Masters said the basin may be entering an era in which 20 storms a year becomes common.

Maria, Katia

Maria’s forecast path shows it passing near the northeast coast of Puerto Rico in three days and east of the Bahamas on Sept. 12 as a tropical storm.

Hurricane Katia is moving north off Bermuda, where a tropical storm watch is in effect, the hurricane center said in an advisory at 8 a.m. Eastern time.

Katia is forecast to curve northeast and gain speed tonight and tomorrow as it moves between the island and the U.S. East Coast on a track that may take it just north of the U.K. early next week.

Katia is producing dangerous surf conditions along much of the East Coast. It is a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. A system becomes a named storm when its sustained winds reach 39 mph, and a hurricane when winds hit 74 mph.

With all the storm activity, the Energy Department may report that oil inventories fell 2 million barrels last week as Tropical Storm Lee came ashore on the U.S. Gulf Coast, causing heavy flooding, and shut output, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

Northeast Drenched

Remnants of Lee continued to cause heavy rain and thunderstorms across the mid-Atlantic states and southwestern New England, the NHC said today in an advisory. As much as 6 inches of rain may fall and cause “serious flash floods and mudslides” in an already soaked area, it said.

Rain has worsened morning commuters’ travel and also wrecked havoc for a second day at the U.S. Open in New York City.

About 36.9 percent of U.S. Gulf oil production and 18.1 percent of natural gas output remain shut following Tropical Storm Lee, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

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