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Tropical Storm Nate 'Meandering Off' Mexico's Coast

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MIAMI — Tropical Storm Nate added muscle Thursday as it hovered almost stationary in the Bay of Campeche off Mexico's Gulf coast, where it was expected to bring rain and higher tides.

Nate was one of three tropical systems churning in the Gulf and Atlantic far from U.S. shores as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee flooded roads and highways from Maryland to New England, adding to the misery of areas still recovering from Hurricane Irene.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Nate had maximum sustained winds approaching 70 mph (110 kph) and was expected to become a hurricane by Friday. The storm was centered about 110 miles (180 kilometers) west of Campeche, Mexico, and little motion was expected overnight. But forecasters said Nate was expected to begin a slow crawl in a northerly or north-northwest direction later Friday.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Mexico's coast from Chilitepec to Celestun. A tropical storm watch was issued for the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Celestun to Progreso.

Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Maria was quickly crossing westward over the open Atlantic with top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph). A tropical storm watch was in effect for a host of islands: Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Barthelemy, St. Marteen, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, St. Maartin, Saba and St. Eustatius.

Maria was centered about 490 miles (790 kilometers) east of the Windward Islands and was moving west at 21 mph (33 kph)..

The storm's forecast track called for its center to approach the Leeward Islands by Friday night. Forecasters said Maria was expected to weaken and lose its tropical storm status in the next day or two.

Also, Hurricane Katia was blowing northward as a Category 1 storm in the Atlantic, passing between the U.S. and Bermuda. Its winds were 85 mph (135 kph). Katia wasn't expected to hit land, but was pushing large swells to the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda.

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an above-average storm season for the Atlantic and Caribbean. Slightly updating its May outlook, the agency called for 14 to 19 named tropical storms, up from a previous prediction of 14 to 18 storms.

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