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Katia expected to become hurricane

Tropical Storm Katia was close to becoming a hurricane Wednesday in the Atlantic Ocean, but forecasters said it was too soon to determine where it might head.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami cautioned the public -still recovering along parts of the East Coast from Irene - not to stress over the storm. It is over warm waters and in a low wind shear environment, two ingredients that could propel it to become a major hurricane. But it's too soon to tell if it will ever come near land.

“It’s got a lot of ocean to go. There's no way at this point to say if it will make any impacts, let alone when it might make them,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman at the National Hurricane Center. “There's a reason we don’t do forecasts more than five days in advance - the information just isn't good. The error beyond that just isn't acceptable.”

As of 6 pm, Katia was centered about 1,285 miles (2,068 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands and was moving west-northwest near 20 mph (32 kph).

Maximum sustained winds were near 70 mph (113 kph), just shy of the hurricane threshold of 74 mph (119 kph). It was expected to continue strengthening over the next day or two.

Some models showed Katia veering away from the East Coast. But Feltgen said it’s simply too soon for coastal residents to tell. “Folks along the East Coast shouldn't be getting a lot of heartburn over this - not yet," he said.

Models also show the storm tracking between the Caribbean and Bermuda.

The storm's name replaces Katrina in the rotating storm-name roster because of the catastrophic damage from that 2005 storm, which devastated New Orleans and the coast. The World Meteorological Organization maintains six rotating lists of storm names, but it strikes names associated with storms that were catastrophically deadly or costly.

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Published August 31, 2011 at 7:37 pm (Updated August 31, 2011 at 7:37 pm)

Katia expected to become hurricane

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