Katia nearly a hurricane; Gulf storm brewing
Tropical Storm Katia is now producing top sustained winds of 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, and it is expected to reach hurricane force tonight - just the second storm this season to become a hurricane.
Meanwhile, another storm is brewing at the west end of the Island of Cuba. That one is expected to strengthen in the Gulf, but forecast models are all over the place in their predictions of where it might strike land.
Katia was located this afternoon 1,285 miles east of the Leeward Islands. It was moving to the west-northwest at 20 mph. Forecasters expect it will stay on that course for the next 48 hours and slow a bit. One of the forecast models has Katia reaching Cat. 3 status by late Sunday or Monday.
The storm is moving along the south side of a large high-pressure system over the Atlantic. When it reaches the southwest side of that clockwise circulation, it is forecast to begin a turn to the northwest and eventually north. Just how close it gets to the East Coast by that time is the big question for Katia. Here are some of the model projections.
Mid-Atlantic residents should also be watching the disturbance cranking up at the west end of Cuba. That storm remains pretty disorganized, but forecasters have raised their estimate of its chances. They now give it a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours.
The big question for this one is where it will turn for land. The models are all over the place (see map above). Some take it toward Texas. Others turn it north and east toward the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. If it comes this way we'll likely get another big dose of rain.