Hurricane Bill to pass off U.S. east coast

Hurricane Bill, the first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, is currently threatening parts of New England and eastern Canada.

Bill weakened somewhat on Friday, although it remains a formidable Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. As of 11 p.m. AST August 21 (0300 UTC August 22), Hurricane Bill was located within 10 nautical miles of 31.0°N 67.5°W, or about 545 mi (880 km) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Maximum sustained winds were near 90 knots (105 mph, 165 km/h), with stronger gusts. Forecasters estimate the storm’s minimum barometric pressure to be around 957 millibars.

The storm is currently moving towards the north-northwest at about 20 mph. This path should lead to an eventual turn towards the north and later northeast, bringing the storm between Bermuda and the east coast of the United States on Saturday.

Though the brunt of the storm should remain offshore, residents in New England are monitoring Bill’s progress. The National Weather Service expects seas to turn dangerous this weekend, with some waves potentially reaching 35 feet (11 meters) in height offshore. According to Steve Kass of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, “If you own a boat and you like to go out any distance, this is not the weekend to do it”.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick advised pleasure boaters and swimmers to avoid waters around Cape Cod: “Boaters should not, I repeat not, stay on their boats to ride out this storm. Swimmers should stay out of the water throughout this weekend. There will be life-threatening rip currents along the entire coast”. Beaches were being closed in some areas, including on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Patrick said emergency workers were moving supplies to certain shelters, just in case conditions worsen. On its predicted path, Bill will likely disrupt the Obama family’s vacation to Martha’s Vineyard.

While the U.S. will most likely be spared from significant damage, the Canadian Maritimes might not be so lucky. Peter Bowyer, a program supervisor of the Canadian Hurricane Centre said “it will definitely be a hurricane when it reaches our Maritime waters Sunday. At this point, it is still not possible to give all the specifics everyone wants.” The eastern shore of Nova Scotia and southeastern portions of Newfoundland appear to be at greatest risk.

Oil companies have been vacating workers from offshore platforms within the Sable Offshore Energy Project in advance of Hurricane Bill.

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