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Friday, September 30, 2011

Hurricane Ophelia grows to Category 3 as it approaches US East Coast

Ophelia strengthened Friday into a Category 3 hurricane, with winds of 115 mph as it barreled northward across the Atlantic at nearly 12 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

The system had appeared to be weakening several days ago, only to regroup and intensify.

At 2 p.m. ET, Ophelia's center was about 580 miles south of Bermuda, the Miami-based center said.

Some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, according to the hurricane center. The extended forecast map shows Ophelia passing east of Bermuda, where a tropical storm watch is in effect.

Hurricane-force winds extended about 30 miles from the storm's eye, center said. Tropical storm-force winds, which are winds between 39 mph and 73 mph, have been recorded 175 miles away.

It should begin to turn north-northeastward late Saturday, the hurricane center said.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Philippe was churning farther east in the Atlantic, with its eye some 1,850 miles east-northeast of the Leeward Islands.

"Some strengthening is possible today ... but weakening is likely to begin late Saturday or Sunday," the hurricane center said. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. more