With Hurricane Irene causing billions of dollars of damage up and down the United States East Coast, killing at least 40 people and destroying 1,115 homes in North Carolina alone, all eyes continue to be on the tropics as Katia churns over the Atlantic and as a new potential tropical cyclone could form in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tropical Storm Katia continues to strengthen at a fairly rapid rate. As of the 5:00 PM National Hurricane Center advisory, Katia had winds of 60 mph and was moving to the West Northwest at 20 mph. Katia continues to look more organized and will likely gain hurricane status by Wednesday morning. Satellite imagery continues to show a much more organized Katia.
Environmental conditions ahead of Katia remain extremely favorable for strengthening. Nearly all of our forecast guidance develops Katia into a major hurricane with some of the numerical forecast guidance developing Katia into a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane.
While Katia will likely continue to strengthen, the most uncertainty regarding Katia is where she will track. Our forecast guidance generally show Katia tracking West Northwest through the short term. At this point, I believe there is at least a 60% chance Katia will likely be tracking far enough North that she will likely be impacted by a trough that will move tracking through the Ohio Valley. If this happens, Katia will recurve to the North and Northeast and will likely have little impact on the United States. There is still significant uncertainty in the ultimate track of Katia and if she is not impacted by the trough, then there is an increased chance that she will continue to move more Westerly and could post some type of threat to the East Coast. If Katia can make it to 70W, then she will be close enough to the East Coast that significant media coverage and frenzy will likely occur, especially since Katia will likely be a major Category 3 or stronger hurricane.
Another area we are watching quite closely is an unorganized area of convection in the Northwestern Caribbean.
Most of our forecast guidance is in agreement in developing this area of unorganized convection into a tropical cyclone at some point during the upcoming weekend. With weak steering currents, it will be difficult to pinpoint where this eventual tropical cyclone will track. Most of our forecast guidance indicates some type of eventual threat to the Gulf Coast. This system will have to be watched extremely closely as sea surface temperatures in the Gulf are running well above normal.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned!