Tropical Storm Maria in the central Atlantic is tracking on a path that would take it over the Leeward Islands by Saturday and on to Puerto Rico by Sunday. If it continues on that route, the U.S. East Coast could be looking at another storm by midweek next week.
The storm developed about 1,305 miles east of the Lesser Antilles with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles mainly north of the center.
Maria is moving west at 23 mph, according to an 11 a.m. EDT alert from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
We got the 13th named storm of the season and it's in an environment that isn't conducive to explosive strengthening, Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the hurricane center, told Bloomberg. In fact, we have it as a tropical storm through the end of the five-day forecast period.
Some slight strengthening is forecast for the next 48 hours; however, the storm is expected to remain below 74 mph through next Monday.
As the paths of tropical cyclones are subject to hourly changes, it's still far too early to say what, if any, impact Tropical Storm Maria will have on the U.S. coast.
No watches or warnings have been issued at this time.
Meanwhile, a broad area of low pressure located over the extreme southwestern Gulf of Mexico poses a more immediate threat to the U.S. The system has a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours. An Air Force reserve hurricane hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate the low-pressure system on Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier this week, there were concerns that Hurricane Katia would follow a similar path as the destructive Hurricane Irene the week before. Now, forecast models show the slowly weakening storm heading out to sea back across the Atlantic north of the United Kingdom.
However, the National Hurricane Center warns that large swells generated by Katia are due to affect most of the East Coast through the weekend, creating potentially life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
The Atlantic hurricane season typically brings 11 or 12 named storms. If the system brewing in the Gulf of Mexico develops, it would be the 14th. With nearly half of the season still ahead, 2011 is shaping up to be the unusually busy year that was predicted.