MIAMI (AP) _ Isabel strengthened from a tropical storm into the fourth Atlantic hurricane of the season Sunday, but forecasters said it was still several days from reaching land.
Hurricane Fabian, meanwhile, was losing strength but gaining speed in the northern Atlantic, two days after plowing through Bermuda. Forecasters monitored the other major Atlantic storm, a tropical depression that passed over Florida on Saturday, to see if would strengthen back into Tropical Storm Henri.
At 5 p.m. EDT, Isabel had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph _ above the 74 mph threshhold for a hurricane. The storm was 1,510 miles east of the Leeward Islands and moving west-northwest near 15 mph. Forecasters said by Monday, Isabel was expected to strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane, with winds between 96-110 mph.
Isabel was projected to stay over open waters for at least five days, said Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
It was too early to tell whether it would affect the United States or the Caribbean, he said.
Hurricane Fabian was 290 miles south of Cape Race, Newfoundland, and moving east-northeast at 31 mph across shipping lanes in the north Atlantic.
Fabian’s maximum sustained winds had dropped to 85 mph, down from the 120 mph winds that hit Bermuda on Friday. Forecasters expected it to dissolve and become extratropical by Monday as it moves over cooler waters.
Fabian, the first Category 3 hurricane to hit Bermuda in 50 years, shredded trees and sheared off roofs across the island chain. Four people whose cars were swept off a causeway were still missing Sunday and feared dead.
The tropical depression that had been Tropical Storm Henri, moving northeast near 8 mph, was about 160 miles east-southeast of Charleston, S.C., on Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph _ below the 39 mph minimum threshold to become a tropical storm.
The Atlantic Hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
On the Net:
National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov