Leslie may grow into a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 miles (177 kilometers) per hour as it approaches Bermuda over the weekend and then Newfoundland.
Hurricane-strength winds of at least 74 mph may reach the island by Sept. 9, according to the Bermuda Weather Service. A small-craft warning has been issued for the area, where waves as high as 9 feet (3 meters) and winds of 30 mph are expected within 36 hours.
“Leslie should be a good pounding for Bermuda, but if there’s any place along the Atlantic that can take a pounding, it’s Bermuda,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The hurricane may be far worse for Newfoundland on Canada’s east coast, said Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc.
Leslie is forecast to strengthen over the next two days after becoming a hurricane yesterday with top sustained winds of 75 mph. It was about 440 miles (705 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 5 a.m. Atlantic Standard time. The center’s current track forecast sees Bermuda taking a hit this weekend.
Computer models are wavering as to whether the system will pass to the east or west of the island, said Dan Kottlowski, expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. Conditions on Bermuda would be worse if the storm strikes from the west, because in most cases, a hurricane’s power is focused on its northeast side.
“The worst hurricanes that have hit Bermuda have always hit them from the southwest,” Kottlowski said. The island usually weathers storms very well, he said.
“In past storms where they have been hit hard, it doesn’t take long for them to recover,” Kottlowski said. “They can take a walloping and be back in business in a couple of days.”
After Leslie passes over Bermuda, it’s expected to continue north to a potential landfall in Newfoundland, said Rouiller, based in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.
“The tracks are pretty well clustered into Newfoundland,” Rouiller said. “The eastern half of Newfoundland is under the gun for what could be a catastrophic storm event.”
A trough of low pressure along the East Coast will keep Leslie away from the U.S., Rouiller said.
“This will serve to protect the Northeast from any near misses,” Rouiller said. “From Boston to Bar Harbor, all they will have is high sea swells.”
The Fire and Emergency Services of Newfoundland and Labrador are monitoring Leslie’s track, according to a statement from the agency.
“Officials with Environment Canada and the Canadian Hurricane Centre indicate there is significant uncertainty around this system, but we remain on the alert,” it said.
The track is reminiscent of the one taken by Hurricane Igor, which struck Newfoundland in September 2010. Winds of 105 mph were recorded, and 90 cities and towns were isolated after 9.4 inches of rain fell, washing out roads, according to a provincial report.
The damage from the storm was so great the name Igor was retired from the list of Atlantic hurricanes. Igor was blamed for three deaths, one in Newfoundland.
The storm prompted cities and towns on Newfoundland and Labrador to adopt emergency management plans, according to the Fire and Emergency Services statement.
North Atlantic Refining Ltd. has a 115,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Come-By-Chance, Newfoundland, at the northern end of Placentia Bay about 90 miles west of the provincial capital of St. John’s.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Michael strengthened to become the first Category 3 hurricane of the year, the NHC said in a separate advisory. The system was located 1,020 miles west- southwest of the Azores with winds of 115 miles per hour. Top winds of 111 mph or more make it a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The system is churning northeast at 7 mph and poses no immediate threat to land.
The hurricane center is also tracking a remnant of Hurricane Isaac that has re-entered the Gulf of Mexico and has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next two days.
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