Tropical Storm Katia Grows, Expected to Become Hurricane

Tropical Storm Katia may grow into a hurricane in the next two days as it moves west-northwest through the mid-Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm’s winds increased to 45 miles (72 kilometers) per hour from 40 mph earlier today as it churned across the Atlantic about 630 miles west-southwest of Cape Verde, according to a center advisory issued at about 11 a.m. New York time.

“Continued gradual strengthening is forecast and Katia is expected to become a hurricane by late Wednesday or early Thursday,” the center said. Its current track and intensity forecasts have the storm growing into a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson five-step scale.

Computer forecast models suggest Katia will turn into the Northern Atlantic, a maneuver meteorologists refer to as recurving. The move would mean Katia would miss the U.S., which was struck last weekend by Hurricane Irene, a storm that killed at least 40, cut power to 8 million homes and businesses and caused an estimated $2.6 billion in damage.

“Katia is way, way, way out there,” said Tom Downs, a meteorologist with Weather 2000 Inc. in New York. “It is premature to discuss where it is going, but things suggest it will recurve. Five days from now we will have a better idea.”

Downs said the key will be if Katia drifts to the northwest as it moves across the ocean. Such a track would suggest the storm would eventually take a turn and miss the U.S., he said. A more westerly track might mean trouble, he said.

Named Storms

Katia is the 11th named storm of this Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The average hurricane season usually produces that total, according to the hurricane center.

Last year 19 storms formed in the Atlantic and pre-season forecasts all called for this season to be above average.

The hurricane center is also watching a disorganized band of thunderstorms in the Caribbean between the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba. The area has a 10 percent chance of organizing into a tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico in the next two days, according to the center.

Earlier today, Commodity Weather Group LLC President Matt Rogers said he was watching that system because he believed it may turn into a tropical depression or tropical storm by the weekend. He said it was only a 5 percent threat to oil and gas interests there. The Gulf is home to 31 percent of U.S. oil output and 7 percent of natural gas.

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