Tropical Storm Katia followed forecaster's predictions that it would soon become Hurricane Katia by hitting the 75 mph mark that denotes hurricane-strength last night (Aug. 31).
Katia is a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph). The storm is expected to strengthen in the next 48 hours and could become a major hurricane -- defined as a Category 3-5, with winds higher than 111 mph (178 kph) -- before the weekend.
Katia is currently not a threat to land, sitting 1,065 miles (1,710 kilometers) west of the Leeward Islands, and is not expected to be so for the next five days (the extent of the hurricane forecast from the National Hurricane Center). It is still too early to tell whether or not Katia will eventually pose a threat to the already battered U.S. East Coast .
Hurricane Katia is the second hurricane to form during the 2011 hurricane season, which has been predicted to spawn an above-average 14 to 19 named storms (which include tropical storms and hurricanes), seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes. An average Atlantic hurricane season will see 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. August through October are the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season. [How Are Hurricanes Named?]
Forecasters are also watching a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that has a high potential for becoming a tropical depression or tropical storm in the next couple days.