Hurricane Bill weakened slightly early Friday but still threatened to flood Bermuda's coastlines and generate dangerous waves and riptides along the eastern U.S. coast.
The Category 3 storm's maximum sustained winds lost a little strength to near 115 mph, from 125 mph late Thursday. Forecasters said the hurricane was becoming less organized but could still regain some strength. The storm was forecast to start gradually weakening Saturday.
Bill was expected to cause significant flooding along the Bermuda coastlines Friday and Saturday and Bermuda issued a tropical storm warning.
Along the eastern U.S. coast, waves of 20 feet and more offshore and rip currents at the beach are expected over one of the summer's last weekends. Forecasters warned boaters and swimmers from northeastern Florida to New England because of incoming swells as Bill passes far out to sea on a northward track for Canada's Maritime provinces.
Emergency managers in New England warned boaters, swimmers and surfers to take added precautions this weekend, when waves are expected to swell to 35 feet off the coast.
The National Weather Service said seas will get increasingly dangerous on Saturday into Sunday. Waves of up to 20 feet are possible south of Martha's Vineyard and Block Island and east of Cape Cod, and up to 35 feet on portions of the prime fishing area of Georges Bank, the weather service said.
President Obama and his family plan to travel to Martha's Vineyard on Sunday for vacation.
Mariners from Rhode Island up to Maine were told to stay close to port because of the high seas and what could be tropical storm-force winds. Steve Kass of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency said anybody offshore south of New England will face "absolutely dangerous conditions."
"If you own a boat and you like to go out any distance, this is not the weekend to do it," he said.
Bermuda's storm warning means winds of 40 mph or more were expected to arrive within a day, and the island remained under a hurricane watch that indicated even stronger winds were possible within 36 hours.
Thursday's warning came a day after former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, arrived in Bermuda on Wednesday for a 3- or 4-day getaway.
The government urged islanders to secure boats and finish other storm preparations. Officials put up warning signs at beaches along the south shore because of large swells and rip currents ahead of the storm.
The storm's center is expected to pass between Bermuda and the U.S. eastern coast on Saturday. Forecasters said large swells from the storm were affecting Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, The Bahamas and Bermuda.
The center's five-day track showed Bill staying well out to sea off the U.S. coast and inching closer to land off Canada's Maritime provinces before veering back out into the North Atlantic.
Just before 8 a.m. EDT Friday, the storm was centered about 385 miles south of Bermuda, or about 820 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and was moving northwest around 17 mph.
Bill is the first Atlantic hurricane this year after a quiet start to the season that runs from June through November. The Miami center lowered its Atlantic hurricane outlook on Aug. 6 after no named tropical storms developed in the first two months.
The revised prediction was for three to six hurricanes, with one or two becoming major storms with winds over 110 mph. Researchers at Colorado State University have also lowered their Atlantic season forecast to four hurricanes, two of them major.
TRENDING IN NEWS