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Danielle Strengthens to Category Three Hurricane

Hurricane Danielle Intensifies
In this satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Danielle is seen as it reaches hurricane status and is rated a category 2 moving west-northwest near 18 mph on Aug. 24, 2010 in the Atlantic Ocean as seen from space. Source: NOAA via Getty Images

Hurricane Danielle reached “major” storm status in the Atlantic today, continuing on a track that will bring swells to the U.S. East Coast as a small-craft warning was issued east of Bermuda for the weekend.

The hurricane season’s strongest storm so far this year was packing maximum sustained winds of 120 miles (195 kilometers) per hour, reaching Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory today. The storm was about 585 miles southeast of Bermuda, moving northwest at 12 mph.

“Swells from Danielle will begin to arrive on the east coast of the U.S. on Friday,” according to the advisory. “Large surf and dangerous rip currents are expected throughout the weekend.”

The hurricane center is forecasting Danielle to “remain well east” of Bermuda.

Danielle has surpassed Hurricane Alex as the season’s most intense storm. Alex had 105-mph winds when it hit northeastern Mexico June 30. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Behind Danielle, Tropical Storm Earl strengthened over the Atlantic with 45-mph winds about 1,525 miles east of the north Leeward Islands, the center said. The system was heading west at 17 mph and forecast to become a hurricane by tomorrow.

‘Hurricane Strikes’

Earl and Danielle are being deflected away from the U.S. by a low-pressure trough along the East Coast, according to Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist at commercial forecaster Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. That barrier may break down soon and open the way for storms, he said.

“I’m beginning to feel more and more confident that the Gulf and Florida will become targets for hurricane strikes as we approach and move through the Labor Day weekend,” Rouiller said. “Once this trough is removed, the U.S. seaboard along with the Gulf will be under the gun.”

Florida is the second-largest orange producer after Brazil. The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 31 percent of U.S. oil output and about 10 percent of natural gas production. Labor Day is on Sept. 6.

The hurricane center said it’s also tracking a “vigorous tropical wave” about 350 miles southeast of the Cape Verde islands. The system has a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next two days, according to a bulletin issued at about 8 p.m. local time yesterday.

Weather Patterns

The system will probably become Fiona, the next name on the hurricane center’s list, said Joe Bastardi, chief meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. A series of storms may develop as weather patterns move off Africa and out over the Atlantic, he said.

“You can see them lining up over Africa,” Bastardi said. “It is like a conga line.”

In the Pacific, Hurricane Frank was packing 85-mph winds and heading west-northwest at 15 mph, the hurricane center said. The Category 1 storm, about 335 miles south-southeast of the southern tip of Baja California, is forecast to weaken today and tomorrow.

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