Hurricane Katia strengthens into a major category four hurricane

September 6th, 2011 - 1:48 pm ICT by BNO News  

MIAMI (BNO NEWS) — Hurricane Katia rapidly strengthened into a major category four storm on Monday as it moved north of the Caribbean, forecasters said. There is no immediate threat to land.

Katia emerged in the far eastern Atlantic on August 29 as a tropical depression before slowly strengthening into a hurricane. Dry air and shear caused the storm to weaken several times before the system quickly restrengthened into a category two hurricane on Sunday, and then a category four hurricane on Monday.

As of 11 p.m. AST on Monday (0300 GMT Tuesday), the center of Katia was located about 450 miles (725 kilometers) south of the British overseas island of Bermuda, or north of the Caribbean. It is moving toward the northwest at a speed near 10 miles (17 kilometers) per hour, a general motion which is expected to continue through Wednesday.

Maximum sustained winds of Katia have increased to 135 miles (215 kilometers) per hour, with higher gusts, making it a category four hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity. The storm is not expected to become a category five hurricane.

“Satellite images indicate that Katia has strengthened considerably during the past several hours,” said John Cangialosi, a hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC). “Fluctuations in the intensity of Katia are likely during the next 12 to 24 hours, perhaps due to eyewall replacement cycles, as the major hurricane remains in a favorable environment.”

On late Tuesday or early Wednesday, NHC forecasters expect slow weakening to commence as Katia moves into an environment of moderate shear and slightly cooler waters. But dangerous rip currents remain the main hazard as Katia is forecast to stay far enough from land.

“Large swells generated by Katia are expected to affect most of the East Coast of the United States, Bermuda, the Greater Antilles, and east-facing beaches of the Bahamas during the next few days,” Cangialosi said. “These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Swells affecting the northern Leeward Islands should continue to subside overnight.”

Katia is the eleventh named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season. The name was added to this year’s rotating storm roster to replace Katrina which killed more than 1,800 people in August 2005 when it made landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border. Storm names are retired when they cause a large number of fatalities.

According to figures released last month, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is expecting an above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic this year. The outlook calls for 14 to 19 named storms, with seven to ten becoming hurricanes and three to five expected to become a major hurricane (category 3 or higher).

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes and two becoming major hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, with peak activity in September.

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