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September 1, 2011

Plenty of uncertainty about Katia, Gulf storm

There's plenty of activity in the tropics this morning, but also plenty of uncertainty about where these two storms might pose a threat.

The most immediate concern is with the thunderstorms and gusty winds in the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are giving it a "high chance" - 70 percent - of becoming a tropical storm (Lee) during the next 48 hours. They say conditions in the region are forecast to become more favorable for development in a few days.

UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: The hurricane center has boosted the storm's chances of becoming Tropical Storm Lee in the next 48 hours Lee to 80 percent.

Meteorologists at say there's plenty to worry about:

"[T]his will be an extensive, slow-moving system, capable of affecting the same areas for days with downpours, stormy seas and rough surf conditions. Rough seas alone have potential to shut down [oil] rigs in the Gulf for an extended period.

"From 10 to 20 inches of rain may fall on part of the north-central Gulf Coast beginning late this week and continuing into next week, and could in itself result in disastrous flooding."

For now, this would-be Lee is drifting slowly to the northwest. But the forecast models are still having trouble dealing with the light steering winds in the Gulf. Their forecast tracks make no sense at all.

Meanwhile, far out in the Atlantic Ocean, Tropical Storm Katia graduated to hurricane overnight. The Cat. 1 storm is sporting top sustained windsof 75 mph. It was located 1,065 miles east of the Leeward Islands, moving to the west at 20 mph. 

Forecasters expect a slow turn more to the west-northwest and some slowing in the next few days. Some additional strengthening is forecast, too, and some models predict Katia will reach Cat. 3 (sustained winds of 111 mph) by the weekend.

The track models look much more together than those for the Gulf Storm. Most continue to take Katia generally to the west-northwest, in a line that, if unchanged, would bring the storm to the southeastern U.S. coast late next week.

But forecasters, and some models, put a curve in Katia's path as it encounters the cold front coming off the eastern U.S. They would curve the track to the northwest, north and later to the northeast before Katia gets close to the coast.  That could put Bermuda in harm's way.

The bottom line on Katia is that it's too soon to tell whether she will become a threat here, or merely good news for surfers.

Here's the latest advisory on Katia. Here's the forecast discussion. And here's the forecast track.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hurricanes

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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