Hurricane Fred reaches Category 3 in Atlantic


MIAMI - Hurricane Fred quickly reached Category 3 strength on Wednesday with 120 mph winds, but soon weakened a bit and remains far out in the Atlantic with no signs it will threaten land.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm's projected five-day path will keep it over the open ocean until it loses steam.

By Wednesday afternoon, Fred's winds had weakened to 115 mph.

The second hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season, Fred is expected to turn northwest and then north, keeping thousands of miles east of the U.S. East Coast.

"It is quite unusual to have such a powerful system so far east in the (Atlantic) basin," the hurricane center said in a statement. "Fred is only the third major hurricane noted east of 35 (degrees west longitude) in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the strongest hurricane so far south and east in our data record."

With the peak of the hurricane season two days away, the Atlantic-Caribbean basin has seen five tropical storms and one other hurricane with little damage.

Many of the leading seasonal hurricane forecasters had predicted the six-month Atlantic season, which runs until Nov. 30, would be relatively mild compared to recent years, and would see only two major hurricanes.

In addition to Fred, Bill was a major hurricane, reaching Category 4 in mid-ocean before weakening as it hit Canada's Atlantic provinces last month.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Linda is drifting slowly farther out to sea with maximum sustained winds near 65 mph.

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