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 AccuWeather.com 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.