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Hurricane Katia passes Bermuda; Nate to strengthen

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Nate is expected to become a hurricane Friday
  • Tropical Storm Maria could threaten the U.S. next Tuesday, Wednesday
  • More Caribbean islands are under a tropical storm watch because of Maria

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Miami (CNN) -- A trio of storms -- one on track to weaken, another poised to strengthen into a hurricane and the third veering away from land -- kept U.S. forecasters busy Thursday.

The center of Hurricane Katia passed Bermuda, churning up heavy surf and potentially dangerous rip currents, the National Hurricane Center said. The country discontinued a tropical storm watch.

The Category 1 storm, packing winds of 85 mph, was moving northeast at about 21 mph at 11 p.m. ET Thursday. Its center was about 360 miles northwest of Bermuda.

Katia is expected to weaken over the next 48 hours as it moves into cooler water, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. It is expected to stay well south of Canada.

Large swells are forecast to affect most of the U.S. East Coast, Bermuda and the eastern Bahamas, the hurricane center said.

Hurricane-force winds extended up to 70 miles from the storm's center. It was dumping heavy rains on Mexico.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Nate, which formed Wednesday in the Bay of Campeche in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, was about 110 miles west of Campeche, Mexico, and about 175 miles northeast of Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, at 11 p.m. Thursday, the hurricane center said.

The storm's maximum sustained winds were at 70 mph, and it was stationary. Strengthening is forecast over the next two days, forecasters said, and Nate is expected to become a hurricane by Friday.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Mexico from Chilitepec to Celestun, forecasters said.

The future track of Nate is highly uncertain, Hennen said. "Most models continue to push the storm slowly toward Mexico, but there are several of our more reliable models that continue to pull the storm northward toward (the) northern Gulf of Mexico."

Nate was forecast to dump up to 4 inches of rain over the Mexican states of Campeche, Tabasco and Southern Veracruz, with up to 8 inches possible in some isolated areas, the hurricane center said. In addition, a storm surge is forecast to raise water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels in the warning area.

Tropical Storm Maria, which formed Wednesday in the Atlantic, was disorganized and could be degenerating into a tropical wave, forecasters said. However, even if it does become a tropical wave, regeneration is possible over the next day or two.

Tropical storm watches were issued for the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Saba and St. Eustatius, with forecasters saying tropical storm conditions were possible within 48 hours.

"Interests elsewhere in the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico should monitor the progress of Maria," the hurricane center said.

The center of Maria was about 490 miles east of the Windward Islands at 8 p.m. ET Thursday. Its maximum sustained winds were at 40 mph, with higher gusts, forecasters said. The storm was speeding west at 21 mph.

"On the forecast track, the center of Maria will be near the Leeward Islands late Friday and moving over the northeastern Caribbean Sea on Saturday," forecasters said. Maria is expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Friday or Saturday.

Tropical storm-force winds extended about 175 miles to the north and east of Maria's center.

If the storm can survive the next couple of days, most of the computer models show, Maria could grow stronger as it moves near or over the Leeward Islands late Friday into Saturday, according to Hennen. Beyond that time frame, Maria appears to be headed into the Bahamas.

The storm could be a threat to the United States by late Tuesday into Wednesday.