Tropical Depression #12 increased in organization overnight and became Tropical Storm Katia, the 11th named storm of the 2011 season, early Tuesday morning while located in the eastern Atlantic Ocean about 535 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 40mph. Though wind shear is currently around the system, the shear will decrease within the next 12 hours and environmental conditions will be favorable for additional intensification.
The official forecast and computer models indicate that Katia could become a hurricane by late Wednesday night or early Thursday and potentially a major hurricane by this weekend.
T.S. Katia is now moving quickly west-northwest around 17mph, and this general motion along with an increase in forward speed is expected through the next few days as it is steered around the southern edge of high pressure in the central and western Atlantic.
The official 5-day forecast track from the National Hurricane Center keeps the system over the eastern and central Atlantic away from any land masses. However, longer range computer models suggest the storm could approach and move north of the northern Leeward Islands early next week before turning more northward as a low pressure trough enters the western Atlantic.
Tropical Storm Katia is over 3,275 miles from Florida and it is too early to tell if the system will be a U.S. threat.
Reported by Amy Godsey, State Meteorologist
Florida Division of Emergency Management