Tech Tropical Storm Irma is gaining attention as it moves across the Atlantic — and could become a hurricane by Friday

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Harvey is still dumping rain on Louisiana and Texas. But forecasters are also starting to keep an eye on Tropical Storm Irma, which may be the next threat.

Tropical Storm Irma play

Tropical Storm Irma

(National Hurricane Center)
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Update: As of August 31 at 11 a.m., Hurricane Irma is now a Category 2 storm. See this post for the latest.

Original story: Texas and parts of Louisiana are still dealing with catastrophic flooding from Harvey, which is still dumping rain in many areas. But forecasters are also starting to keep an eye on a new storm that may become the next threat: Tropical Storm Irma.

The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday declared Irma the season's ninth named storm. The NHC is projecting that the storm could intensify to hurricane status by Friday morning, though it's still too soon to know whether it'll pose a threat to anyone in the Caribbean or the US.

The big question is where Irma will go. It's in the eastern Atlantic, moving west at 10 to 15 mph. When it reaches the Antilles in the eastern Caribbean next week, researchers will be watching its path.

Most storms that turn north before they hit the Antilles wind up curving away from the US, according to Brian McNoldy, a cyclone researcher. But if Irma passes over the islands or goes south of them, as some models predict, it could become a threat for locations in the Caribbean, Mexico, or the US.

This is the first time Irma has been used as a name for a storm. Storm names are selected from an alphabetical, recurring list, but a name is retired if it becomes associated with a particularly devastating weather event. Irma replaced the name Irene after the 2011 hurricane with that name caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean and the US.

We'll know more about Irma by the middle of next week, according to McNoldy.

Meanwhile, another potential tropical disturbance could form in the Gulf of Mexico next Tuesday or Wednesday, he wrote. If that happens, that storm could be headed for the already drenched Texas and Louisiana coasts.