UPDATE: After a lull in which Katia was downgraded to a tropical storm, she’s back to Category 1 hurricane status. But the storm system remains way out in the Atlantic, and it’s too early to tell if it will reach American shores. “It’s got a lot of ocean to go,” a National Hurricane Center spokesman told MSNBC.
Lee is expected to drop as much as 20 inches of rain on parts of Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday in preparation for flooding. Mississippi, Alabama, and the western tip of Florida’s panhandle are also in for a soaking.
The one place where the storm would be welcome is Texas, which is enduring its worst drought since the 1950s. But if Lee stays on its current path, it may just miss the state, calling into question the efficacy of Gov. Rick Perry’s three-day prayer for rain back in April. In fact, the Houston Chronicle reports, the tropical storm could actually bring drier weather to Texas in the coming weeks.
POST Thursday 11:08 a.m.: Is it too early to panic about the next big storm brewing in the Atlantic Ocean?
Of course. But with the East Coast just drying out from Irene, it’s hard not to shudder a bit at satellite images of the next big cloud mass forming out on the high seas. The fact that its name is just two letters removed from that of a certain other nightmarish hurricane doesn’t help.
Hurricane Katia, upgraded from a tropical storm overnight, hovered about 1,700 miles southeast of Bermuda on Thursday morning, the Christian Science Monitor reports. With winds topping out at about 75 mph, it’s a Category 1 hurricane for now, though experts believe it could eventually reach Category 3. A hurricane specialist told USA Today it’s too early to say whether it will strike the United States.
“Forecasters stress that it’s way too early for us to stress over it,” a stressed-looking Brian Williams reported on NBC Nightly News (video here). You can stress over it yourself with the help of a hurricane tracker available on msnbc.com.
The new hurricane would have been called Katrina, the next name up in a roster of storm monikers that gets recycled every six years, but that name was retired from the list after 2005 for obvious reasons.
Meanwhile, a separate storm cluster in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning stood a 70 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone in the next two days. That prompted BP to start evacuating some workers from oil and gas platforms. Should the system grow scary enough to merit a name, it will be called Lee.