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Tropical storm Nate poised to become first Gulf of Mexico hurricane of 2011

The Gulf of Mexico may be in for its first hurricane of the season this weekend.

With warm waters and minimal wind shear ahead, Tropical Storm Nate appeared poised to become a hurricane over the weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Nate, centered about 125 miles west of Campeche, Mexico, did not appear to pose any threat to the United States as it continued on a northwest path.

The storm also did not appear likely to bring any relief to areas of Texas struggling with wildfires.

"This is going to be a Mexico-focused storm," said NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

Because Nate is a fairly small storm, the Lone Star State would not likely see much rain, save for an inch or so expected to fall over Brownsville this weekend, according to Jeff Masters, a former hurricane hunter and founder of wunderground.com.

Even its winds would likely be too small to fan the fires in Texas, Masters said.

By Friday, the storm had spurred evacuations of energy rigs in the Gulf, where significant portions of U.S. oil and natural gas production are based.

A hurricane watch was issued along the Mexico coast from Tampico to Veracruz.

Forecasters warned slow-moving Nate could bring up to a foot of rain over the Mexican states of Campeche, Tabasco and southern parts of Veracruz. A storm surge carrying waves up to three feet above normal tide levels was also expected.

Meanwhile in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Maria continued on its path toward the Caribbean islands Friday. Forecasters said the storm would likely see slight strengthening over coming days.

On Friday, the storm carried winds steady at about 40 miles per hour.

Located about 135 miles northeast of Barbados, Maria continued moving west-northwest toward the Virgin Islands, where experts said the storm may hit Saturday night.

As it continued toward the Virgin Islands, Maria appeared likely to hit warmer waters and lower wind shear, creating a potential for it to intensify.

Maria prompted the NHC to issue a tropical storm warning for much of the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Katia, located about 525 miles south-southwest of Halifax Nova Scotia, continued to quietly drift northeast and away from the United States.

Tropical storm Nate poised to become first Gulf of Mexico hurricane of 2011 09/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 2:31pm]
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