By Jane Sutton
MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Nate sprang to life in the western Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, Tropical Storm Maria formed in the Atlantic and Hurricane Katia churned up surf along Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast, forecasters said.
The trio of tropical cyclones came during what is traditionally the busiest part of the June-through-November hurricane season in the Atlantic basin.
"At this time of year we are essentially at the peak of the hurricane season," said John Cangialosi, a hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Tropical Storm Nate formed in Mexico's Bay of Campeche, prompting the Mexican government to issued storm warnings for its coast from Chilitepec to Celestun.
Nate was about 125 miles west of Campeche and had sustained winds of 45 miles per hour. It was forecast to strengthen into a hurricane by Friday and move slowly north and then northeast toward the Mexican coast, the U.S. forecasters said.
Coastal residents in the warning area could start feeling its gusts and rain by Wednesday night, they said.
"Data from the Pemex oil rigs in the Bay of Campeche measured sustained winds of 43 mph, gusting to 50 mph (80 mph)," the U.S. forecasters said.
Crude oil futures rebounded sharply, partly on fears that Nate could disrupt U.S. and Mexican oil and natural gas operations in the Gulf. Nearly 37 percent of U.S. oil production in the Gulf remained offline from Tropical Storm Lee's trek through the region last weekend, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said.
In the Atlantic, newly formed Tropical Storm Maria could threaten Puerto Rico and the Leeward Islands of the northeast Caribbean during the weekend.
It was about 1,205 miles east of the Leeward Islands and racing westward. Maria had top winds of 50 miles per hour (85 km per hour) and was expected to strengthen only slightly in the next two days, forecasters at the hurricane center in Miami said.
Maria was expected to turn more to the north during the weekend but it was too early to know whether it would then curve away from the United States as Katia is forecast to do.
Katia weakened significantly in the last two days but was still a hurricane with 80 mph winds, making it a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale. It was a Category 4 at its peak.
Katia was centered about 335 miles west-southwest of the island of Bermuda and was expected to pass between the eastern U.S. coast and Bermuda by Thursday.
Forecasters said the core of the storm would stay out to sea but Katia was wide enough that its outer squalls could reach the shores of Bermuda, a British territory and global reinsurance hub whose 70,000 residents were under a tropical storm watch.
Katia generated large swells that kicked up the surf and caused dangerous rip currents along the beaches of the Eastern United States, Bermuda and parts of the Bahamas, the forecasters said.
Once past Bermuda, Katia was forecast to curve eastward over open seas where it would pose no further threat until it nears Scotland on Monday. By then it will no longer be a tropical system, but could spread out into a larger storm.
"It'll likely be a very big, significant weather system," Cangialosi said. "It will evolve into a classic wintertime storm by the time it gets there."
(Editing by Christopher Wilson)