Hurricane Jose ambles off U.S. coast as new Tropical Storm Maria tracks Irma’s early path

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As Hurricane Jose ambles northward in the Atlantic far off the East Coast, an innocuous-sounding system has turned into Tropical Storm Maria in the Caribbean and could well follow Irma’s destructive path toward Florida as a full-blown hurricane.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded the one-time disturbance to Tropical Depression Maria and said it was 620 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles, moving west at 20 mph. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

A hurricane watch was issued for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, a route followed by Irma as it moved westward.

A Tropical Storm watch was in effect for St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area by Monday night or Tuesday, with tropical storm conditions possible on Monday,” the National Hurricane Center said.

Although forecast tracks can change dramatically over the coming week, maps on Saturday show the storm moving on an Irma-like path over Puerto Rico on Wednesday and Hispaniola Thursday morning heading straight toward the Florida Keys.

Hurricane Jose, meanwhile, was 485 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., moving north at 6 mph with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.

The center said “interests” from North Carolina to New England should monitor the storm’s progress and advised that tropical storm watches may be issued in the next day or two for portions of that area along the East Coast.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Norma weakened to a tropical storm as it moves closer to Mexico in the Pacific while Tropical Storm Lee has formed in the Atlantic far from land, heading west.

Norma is forecast to pass near the resort-studded southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula late Sunday and early Monday.

The NHC said that Tropical Storm Lee had sustained winds of 40 mph and was about 720 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands, moving west at 10 mph. Little change in strength was forecast over the next couple of days.

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