Tracking the Tropics

Sep 1, 2011 5:28 PM by AP

Katia weakens to tropical storm, to strengthen

MIAMI (AP) - Hurricane Katia has weakened to a tropical storm as it moves across the Atlantic but forecasters say they expect it to strengthen again over the next two days.

Katia was about 930 miles (1497 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands and moving west near 18 mph (30 kph) with maximum sustained winds late Thursday afternoon near 70 mph (113 kph), a 5 mph decrease. It could become a major hurricane this weekend.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it's too early to tell if Katia will hit the U.S. It is expected to pass north of the Caribbean.

Meanwhile two other storm systems were developing over open water, but forecasters said Thursday it was too soon to tell if any might hit land.

Forecasters said there was an 80 percent chance a tropical depression could form in the Gulf of Mexico. It was unclear where that system would head, but it could bring much-needed relief to drought-plagued Texas.

The Gulf system already has prompted two major petroleum producers to remove crews from a handful of production platforms. Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil said they would also cut off a small amount of production. Both moves affect only a fraction of production.

The hurricane center said a slow-moving low pressure system about 360 miles (579 kilometers) north of Bermuda stood a 50 percent chance in the next two days of becoming a tropical cyclone, the first step toward a tropical storm.

Also, a tropical depression in the eastern Pacific has weakened over southwestern Mexico and is expected to dissipate Thursday night.

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