MIAMI » Newly formed Hurricane Bertha was churning northward Monday far from land, posing no direct threat to the U.S. East Coast.
The center of the storm is expected to stay offshore as it passes wide of the U.S. mainland over the next few days, and the storm is also likely to miss Bermuda. A forecast map shows that Bertha could brush Canada’s easternmost provinces as a post-tropical storm later this week.
"There’s no direct impact that will be felt on the U.S. East Coast. However, there could be added surf and rip current conditions," said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
That doesn’t mean coastal residents should let their guard down, though.
"We’ve still got the peak of the season to go on the Atlantic side, mid-August to mid-October," Feltgen said.
The hurricane formed Monday morning, and its maximum sustained winds decreased to near 75 mph by the afternoon. Further weakening was expected. The hurricane was centered about 650 miles west-southwest of Bermuda and is moving north near 18 mph.
On Sunday, the storm buffeted parts of the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos with rain and gusty winds, after passing over the Dominican Republic and causing temporary evacuation of dozens of families as its downpours raised rivers out of their banks. Earlier, it dumped rain on Puerto Rico, which has been parched by unusually dry weather.
Before Bertha reached the Turks & Caicos, residents pulled boats ashore or moored them at marinas in the tourism-dependent archipelago that has little natural protection from strong storm surges. Tourism Director Ralph Higgs said hotels were "taking the threat of the storm seriously."