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Hurricane Florence flails Bermuda, winds steady

Written by: Staff
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HAMILTON, Bermuda, Sep 11 (Reuters) Hurricane Florence flailed Bermuda with powerful winds and pounding surf today but lost some momentum as it bore down on the mid-Atlantic British territory.

With maximum sustained winds of 130 kph, Florence remained a Category 1 hurricane, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasters had predicted Florence could intensify to a Category two as it barreled toward Bermuda, but the center's latest advisory forecast little change in strength during the next 24 hours.

''I think it's probably peaked,'' said David Roberts, a Navy forecaster at the Miami-based hurricane center.

At 8 a.m. (5.30 IST), Florence, the second hurricane of the 2006 Atlantic season, was about 97 km west of Bermuda and moving north at 19 kph.

Roberts said the center, or fierce eye of the storm, was not expected to move any closer to the 35-km-long British island chain.

The hurricane was forecast to stay away from the North American mainland, but was creating risky surf along parts of the eastern United States and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

Bermuda issued a hurricane warning and government leaders called up 200 troops and placed 250 more on standby for possible deployment after the storm.

Hundreds of emergency service workers on the wealthy resort island that is also an international finance center were also on standby.

Hurricane Fabian, the strongest storm to hit Bermuda in 50 years, killed four people and did about 500 million dollars damage in 2003.

The National Hurricane Center said a small tropical depression had formed on Monday about 495 miles (800 km) east-northeast of the Leeward Islands.

The depression could become the seventh tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters said.

The six-month hurricane season that began on June 1 has produced only two hurricanes so far. Tropical Storm Ernesto briefly reached hurricane strength near Haiti last month but weakened before drenching the US East Coast.

The 2005 season broke records with 28 tropical storms, or which 15 became hurricanes. The worst was Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, killed 1,500 people along the US Gulf Coast and caused billion in damage.

Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005, as a Category 4 hurricane, the second-most powerful on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

REUTERS BDP KN1818

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