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Hurricane Katia strengthens in Atlantic, prompting rip current threats

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Katia's maximum sustained winds are 105 mph, the hurricane center reports
  • NEW: It is within 385 miles of the Northern Leeward Islands and within 655 miles of Bermuda
  • The N.C. Outer Banks are in its "cone of uncertainty," a CNN meteorologist notes
  • Katia is now a Category 2 hurricane and could become a "major hurricane" by Monday

Miami (CNN) -- Hurricane Katia continued to intensify overnight Sunday as it churned in the Atlantic Ocean, spurring warnings about rip currents and fears it could soon develop into a "major hurricane," the National Hurricane Center said.

At of 11 p.m. ET,Katia was considered a Category 2 hurricane -- packing maximum sustained winds of 105 mph -- just 5 mph weaker than those that would make it a Category 3.

No warnings or watches were in effect for the United States, but the hurricane center did warn that the "threat of rip currents (are) expected to increase along the East Coast ... during the next few days." East-facing beaches along the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles also may experience "large swells," while similar conditions on the Northern Leeward Islands should improve into Monday.

"These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions," the hurricane center reported.

The storm was centered 385 miles north-northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands and 655 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and was moving northwest at 13 mph. It is expected to slow down slightly through Tuesday, even as it is expected to keep getting stronger over the next 48 hours, the center reported late Sunday.

Currently, Katia's hurricane-force winds extend 45 miles out from its center. Sustained tropical storms winds -- blowing consistently at between 39 and 73 mph -- can be felt up to 175 miles out.

Katia's likely path puts it on a trajectory northwest through the Atlantic, getting closer to the U.S. East Coast toward the end of the week.

CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras noted that most computer models show Katia largely skirting the eastern United States as it eventually moves northward. But North Carolina's Outer Banks are part of its "cone of uncertainty," a weather measure that indicates where forecasters think a hurricane's center could go.