I (AFP) - Bermuda issued a hurricane watch Thursday for the possible passage within 36 hours of Hurricane Bill, a massive storm packing powerful winds and creating life-threatening ocean swells.
Bill, first hurricane of the Atlantic season, was about 695 miles (1,120 kilometers) south-southeast of the island when Bermuda issued the alert at 11:00 am (1500 GMT).
The Category Three hurricane was moving at around 30 kilometers per hour toward the northwest, and was expected to pass over the open waters between the United States and Bermuda early Saturday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Bill has maximum sustained winds of nearly 195 kilometers per hour, with higher gusts, and is likely to strengthen over the next day, possibly regaining Category Four status on Friday, the Miami-based NHC said.
On its current trajectory, the center of the hurricane is forecast to pass within about 440 kilometers of Bermuda late Friday and Saturday, buffeting the island with tropical storm force winds, extremely dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents, the NHC said.
Bill is then forecast to turn northwards, running roughly parallel to the US east coast and passing within 545 kilometers of Boston Sunday morning before veering to the northeast up the Canadian coast.
The 1-5 categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale indicate the storms severity, with a Category Three hurricane packing dangerous winds that can cause extensive damage to populated areas, and a category four classed as having extremely dangerous winds expected to create devastating damage.
The Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and ends on November 30.
Weather experts earlier this month reduced the number of projected hurricanes in the north Atlantic this season to four, two of them major hurricanes with winds above 178 kilometers per hour.
After one of the calmest starts to the hurricane season in a decade, researchers from Colorado State University said the development of an El Nino effect in the Pacific had caused them to scale back their projections for the Atlantic.