MIAMI, Aug 21 – Bermuda was on alert on Friday as Hurricane Bill approached, spinning off life-threatening ocean swells in Puerto Rico and the island of Hispaniola and threatening to regain Category Four status.
A "large and powerful" Category Three storm, Bill was expected to pass over the open waters between the United States and Bermuda early Saturday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
At 2300 GMT Thursday, Bill’s eye was 510 miles (825 kilometers) south of Bermuda, and 975 miles (1,470 kilometers) southeast of the US coastline at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the NHC said.
The first hurricane of the Atlantic season was moving towards the northwest at 18 miles (30 kilometers) per hour, and was forecast to gradually turn north roughly parallel to the US east coast.
Projections show it passing within 340 miles (545 kilometers) of Boston on Sunday morning before veering to the northeast up the Canadian coast.
Bill was packing maximum sustained winds of around 125 miles (205 kilometers) per hour, with higher gusts.
The National Hurricane Center said Bill "has the potential to regain Category Four status on Friday," adding it was expected to gradually weaken from Saturday.
The Saffir-Simpson scale rates a storm’s severity on a scale of one to five, with a Category Three hurricane packing dangerous winds that can cause extensive damage to populated areas.
Category Four is reserved for hurricanes with "extremely dangerous winds" that are expected to create "devastating damage."
Hurricane-force winds spun off from Bill extended up to 185 kilometers (115 miles) from the storm’s eye.
Large swells "generated by this hurricane are affecting the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola," and should also "begin affecting the Bahamas, Bermuda, most of the US east coast and the Atlantic Maritimes of Canada" over the next days, the NHC said.
"These swells will likely cause extremely dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents," the statement read.
Hispaniola, the second-largest Caribbean island after Cuba, compromises Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Bermuda issued its tropical storm alert and hurricane watch alert earlier Thursday in preparation of Bill’s arrival.
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 111 miles (178 kilometers) per hour.
Bill’s progress follows one of the calmest starts to the hurricane season in a decade, which researchers from Colorado State University attributed to the development of an El Nino effect in the Pacific.