Hurricane Katia spins off Mexico Gulf coast, menaces Veracruz

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Hurricane Katia wheeled in place off the Mexican Gulf coast on Thursday, but it was expected to gain strength before it approached land by late Friday or early Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

A Category 1 hurricane, Katia was 210 miles (335 km) east of the port of Tampico, blowing maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (130 km per hour), and may be close to major hurricane strength by the time it is forecast to hit land this weekend, the NHC said.

Category 1 is the NHC’s weakest hurricane designation. Category 5 is the strongest. Storms of Category 3 and above are defined as major hurricanes.

There are now three hurricanes in the Atlantic.

Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century and a Category 5, spread devastation in Saint Martin, where it killed eight people, and Barbuda in the Caribbean as it took aim at Florida.

Hurricane Jose is in the open Atlantic, some 815 miles (1,310 km) east of the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles islands. It was expected to gain some strength but the effects of Irma were seen eventually weakening that storm.

Katia was expected to begin moving again and turn southward, and it is forecast to hit the state of Veracruz by early Saturday.

Katia has “worrying characteristics” because it is very slow moving and could dump a lot of rain on areas that have been saturated in recent weeks, Luis Felipe Puente, head of Mexico’s national emergency services, told domestic television on Wednesday.

State oil and gas company Pemex [PEMX.UL] has installations in and around the coast of Veracruz, but the firm has not reported any disruption to its operations.

Reporting by Michael O’Boyle; Editing by Bernadette Baum