Hurricane Danielle, the strongest storm of the Atlantic season, surged to a Category Four intensity Friday followed close behind by Earl, a tropical storm that could hit the Caribbean within days, US forecasters said.
“Danielle is a Category Four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson (five-step) scale,” with sustained winds of 135 miles (215 kilometers) per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin just before 0900 GMT.
“Some additional strengthening is possible in the next 24 hours.”
Danielle — the second and strongest to date of the 2010 Atlantic hurricanes — is forecast to track well east of Bermuda and then curl to the northeast and out to sea.
But the hurricane will likely drench the island chain with rain and the NHC said “interests in Bermuda should monitor the progress of Danielle.”
The weather system is not expected to hit the United States or Canada although the NHC warned that large surf and dangerous rip currents were likely to affect parts of the US east coast by Saturday.
Danielle surged in strength in just a few hours from Category Two to Category Four, the second highest level on the NHC’s scale.
Category Four storms cause “catastrophic damage” when they make landfall, with “a very high risk of injury or death to people, livestock, and pets due to flying and falling debris,” according to the NHC.
Shortly before 0900 GMT the hurricane was 875 kilometers southeast of Bermuda and moving to the northwest at 19 kilometers per hour, but there were no coastal watches or warnings in effect, the center said.
Of greater concern out in the Atlantic was Tropical Storm Earl, which forecasters expect to reach hurricane status by late Saturday and then threaten the eastern Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, by late Monday or early Tuesday.
It is forecast to then turn to the northeast, and travel between the Bahamas and Bermuda, potentially threatening the US east coast at the end of next week.