Hurricane Leslie may grow into a Category 2 storm with winds of 110 miles (177 kilometers) per hour as it approaches Bermuda over the weekend and then moves north toward Newfoundland.
Hurricane-strength winds of at least 74 mph may reach the island by Sept. 9, according to the Bermuda Weather Service. A small-craft warning has been issued for the area, where waves as high as 9 feet (3 meters) and winds of 30 mph are expected within 36 hours.
"Leslie should be a good pounding for Bermuda, but if there's any place along the Atlantic that can take a pounding, it's Bermuda," said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Leslie developed Wednesday into a hurricane with top sustained winds of 75 mph. It was about 465 miles (748 kilometers) south- southeast of Bermuda as of 1:45 p.m. East Coast time. The center's current track forecast predicts it will pass almost directly over Bermuda this weekend.
Computer models are wavering as to whether the system will pass to the east or west of the island, said Dan Kottlowski, expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. Conditions on Bermuda would be worse if the storm strikes from the west because in most cases a hurricane's power is focused on its northeast side.
"The worst hurricanes that have hit Bermuda have always hit them from the southwest," Kottlowski said.
Weathering Storms The island usually weathers storms very well, he said.
"In past storms where they have been hit hard, it doesn't take long for them to recover," Kottlowski said. "They can take a walloping and be back in business in a couple of days." After Leslie passes over Bermuda, it's expected to continue north to a potential landfall in Newfoundland, said Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.
"The tracks are pretty well clustered into Newfoundland," Rouiller said. "The eastern half of Newfoundland is under the gun for what could be a catastrophic storm event." The track is reminiscent of the one taken by Hurricane Igor, which struck Newfoundland in September 2010. Winds of 105 mph were recorded and 90 cities and towns were isolated after 9.4 inches of rain fell, washing out roads, according to a provincial report.
The damage from the storm was so great the name Igor was retired from the list of Atlantic hurricanes. Igor was blamed for three deaths, one in Newfoundland.
Newfoundland Refinery North Atlantic Refining Ltd. has a 115,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Come By Chance, Newfoundland, at the northern end of Placentia Bay about 90 miles west of the provincial capital of St. John's.
The hurricane center is also tracking Tropical Storm Michael, which isn't a threat to land, and a remnant of Hurricane Isaac that has re-entered the Gulf of Mexico. The area of low pressure has a 40 percent chance of forming into a tropical system.
If it does, it will be renamed, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the hurricane center in Miami.
Rouiller said he doesn't believe much will come of the system, predicting it will probably get swept up into another weather pattern.
Kottlowski said there's a lot of wind shear inhibiting the development of the system. If it does turn into a tropical storm or depression, it will probably land on Florida's west coast and won't get near energy platforms and rigs, he said.