Katia / Gulf Disturbance
A view of the disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico and Katia in the central Atlantic. NASA/NOAA

A low pressure located over the central Gulf of Mexico has a 70 percent chance of developing into a Tropical Depression in the next 24 hours.

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), upper-level winds are currently unfavorable for development; however conditions are forecast to become more conducive later in the day on Thursday.

NHC warns that it could become a tropical cyclone as it moves slowly northwestward. Interests along the entire northern Gulf of Mexico coast should monitor the progress of the disturbance.

The system has already prompted several major international oil companies to evacuate workers from offshore oil rigs.

BP was the first major oil producer to say it was evacuating workers on Wednesday. Anadarko Petroleum Corp later stated it would evacuate non-essential workers and Royal Dutch Shell said it too was preparing form some evacuations.

Should the system develop into a tropical storm, it would be called Lee - the 12th named storm in the busy 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

In the grip of a severe drought, many Texans hope that rain from the developing weather system could bring some relief.

Meanwhile, much farther from the U.S. coast in the central Atlantic, Katia strengthened into a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. Katia is located roughly 1050 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands.

Forecasters say they currently expect Katia to continue to strengthen, becoming a category 3 storm perhaps within the next 48 hours.

The storm is moving west at 20 mph, but it is still too soon to say what effect, if any, it will have on the United States.

The Atlantic hurricane season typically brings 11 or 12 named storms. Katia is already the 11th. With nearly half of the season still ahead, 2011 is shaping up to be the unusually busy year that was predicted.