Katia a hurricane; another storm likely in Gulf

MIAMI,  (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Katia strengthened  into a hurricane over the Atlantic yesterday, while another  mass of thunderstorms that could become a named storm this week  triggered evacuations of some oil workers from the Gulf of  Mexico.

Katia had sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (120 kph)  and was the second hurricane of the June-through-November  Atlantic hurricane season, the U.S. National Hurricane Center  said.

The Miami-based center said Katia was forecast to become a  “major” hurricane with winds over 111 mph (178 kph) by the  weekend but it was too early to tell whether it would threaten  land.

At 11 p.m.  Katia was about 1,165 miles  (1,875 km) east of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. It was  moving rapidly west-northwest and was forecast to turn  northwest in a couple of days on a course that would keep it  away from the Caribbean islands.

Hurricane Irene rampaged up the U.S. East Coast over the  weekend and authorities on the U.S. Atlantic seaboard are  keeping an eye on Katia to see which path it takes.

Long-range computer models, which can be off by hundreds of  miles, show Katia nearing the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda in  about a week. Several models turned it north, away from the  U.S. East Coast.

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

Energy companies with oil and natural gas operations in the  Gulf of Mexico were keeping watch on a mass of thunderstorms  over the northwest Caribbean Sea and eastern Gulf.

In an advisory issued late yesterday, the hurricane  center said the disturbed weather system had a “high” chance of  developing into a tropical cyclone in the next two days.

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