Hurricane Bertha strengthens over Atlantic Ocean

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just hours after Tropical Storm Bertha became the first hurricane of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, Bertha strengthened to a "major" storm at category three on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Five-day track map of Hurricane Bertha.

At 5 p.m. EDT, the storm was packing sustained winds of 120 miles an hour and was located about 695 miles east-northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands and about 1085 miles southeast of Bermuda. Forecasters say that Bertha is moving west-northwest at about 12 miles an hour and is expected to slow down in the next couple of days. "A gradual turn toward the northwest with a decrease in forward speed is expected over the next couple of days," the NHC said.

While the NHC noted that it is still too early to tell if Bertha will strike land, residents are being urged to continue to monitor the storm's progress. Further strengthening is unlikely, according to the NHC, due to unfavorable atmospheric conditions.

Bertha first formed on Thursday in the eastern Atlantic off of Africa. The storm is the easternmost tropical storm to form over the Atlantic in the month of July.