Hurricane Ike is not yet weakening over Cuba and will likely reach the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane before taking aim at the oil-rich Texas-Louisiana coast later in the week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast in its 11 a.m. EDT report Monday.
The NHC said earlier Monday that Ike, which is battering central Cuba with winds of 100 mph, would weaken to a tropical storm with winds of 39 to 73 mph by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, the NHC expects Ike to emerge from Cuba in about 36 hours as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 74 to 95 mph.
Ike should strengthen back to a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 111 to 130 mph within 96 hours before crashing into the U.S. Gulf Coast over the weekend, the NHC said.
Energy traders watch for storms that could enter the Gulf of Mexico and threaten U.S. oil and natural gas infrastructure along the coast.
Commodities traders likewise watch storms that could hit agriculture crops like citrus and cotton in Florida and other states along the Gulf Coast to Texas.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the NHC said there was less than a 20 percent chance the remnants of Josephine would reorganize over the next 48 hours. The remnants were located about 1,200 miles (1,931 km) east of the northern Leeward Islands.
The Leeward Islands include the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Saint Martin, Barbuda, Antigua, Montserrat and Guadeloupe.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino, editing by Matthew Lewis)
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