Tropical Storm Katia is strengthening, and threatening to become the second hurricane in the 2011 Atlantic season after Irene, which savaged the U.S. East Coast only days ago.
At 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT Wednesday), Katia was about 885 miles west of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands, still far out to the east in the Atlantic, Reuters reported. It had top winds of 60 miles (95 km) per hour and was moving west at a brisk 22 mph, the National Hurricane Center said, and it could become a hurricane on Wednesday.
Hurricane forecasters have been following Katia since Saturday when it emerged then-unnamed as a large area of showers and thunderstorms off the west coast of Africa. The storm became better organized Sunday and Monday, when it became a tropical depression.
Katia is the 11th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic season and forecasters say it is likely to become the second hurricane after Irene.
While Vermont still battles flood waters and millions along the U.S. East Coast pick up after Hurricane Irene, Katia has formed and is slowly strengthening as it moves across the Atlantic. The storm is expected to soon reach hurricane strength, possibly escalating to major storm category.
Early forecast models show Hurricane Katia is not expected to hit the U.S., while perhaps striking in the Caribbean, but some experts say it's far too early to know. Ruling out a strike on the U.S. from Hurricane Katia at this point would be a mistake, according to Weather Underground founder Dr. Jeff Masters.
The long-term fate of Katia is unknown, Masters, a hurricane expert, wrote on his blog.
He said in daily commentary that uncertainty is prominent in the storm's forecast. Models do not suggest that Florida is in the picture, but anything could happen from among many possible scenarios.
Katia is expected to be near hurricane strength by late Wednesday or early Thursday, as the second official hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season.
Forecasts show Katia could become a major hurricane by the weekend. By that point, forecasters will have a better idea of its odds in striking the U.S.