It’s official. Tropical Storm Katia has been reclassified as Hurricane Katia, the National Hurricane Center said last night.
Katia, the second named hurricane of the season, following Irene, is currently classified as Category 1, according to the Miami-based center. In an advisory, it warned, “Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours and Katia could become a major hurricane by the weekend.”
Late Wednesday night, Katia was churning in the central Atlantic 1,165 miles east of the Leeward Islands, which include Antigua, Montserrat and St. Kits. The new hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, up from 65 mph earlier last night. It is traveling west-northwest at about 20 mph and may move north of Puerto Rico by Sunday.
The center says it’s too soon, at this point to predict where Katia might land, or if it will make landfall at all. Thus, no coastal watches or warning are currently in effect.
That could change by Sunday, when Katia is forecast to become a major hurricane with winds of more than 111 mph, if in fact it turns toward land.
In the meantime, the center says there is no reason yet for residents of states along the Eastern Seaboard to stress over Katia, even though the new hurricane is over warm waters and in a low wind shear environment, which could transform it from a Category 1 to a major hurricane.
Right now, said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and center spokesman, “It’s got a lot of ocean to go. There’s no way at this point to say if it will make any impacts, let alone when it might make them.”
That’s why the center does not make forecasts more than five days in advance, he explained. “The information just isn’t good. The error beyond that just isn’t acceptable.”
So, while the center hasn’t ruled out entirely that Katia will threaten states along the East Coast, still recovering from Hurricane Irene, Katia says that residents of those states “shouldn’t be getting a lot of heartburn” over the possibility.