HAMILTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Bill charged across the Atlantic on Thursday and was expected to regain power as it headed northwest on a track that will take it between Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast en route to eastern Canada.
Bermuda, a 20 square mile (53 sq km) British territory that is a center for the global insurance industry, issued a tropical storm warning as residents prepared for high winds and heavy seas when Bill passes west of the island on Saturday.
Canada’s East Coast oil producers were also monitoring Bill’s forecast path which is expected to take the currently Category 3 hurricane over Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on Sunday and Monday.
There was no threat from Bill to U.S. oil facilities.
After weakening earlier to Category 3, Bill revved up on Thursday as it passed over warmer waters and its maximum sustained winds were close to 125 miles per hour (205 km per hour), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
“Bill is expected to reach Category 4 status again within the next 12 to 36 hours,” the Miami-based center added.
At 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) the eye of the hurricane was located about 595 miles south of Bermuda and 1,080 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
“The core of Hurricane Bill is expected to pass over open waters between Bermuda and the East Coast of the United States early Saturday,” the NHC said.
Bermudian newspapers reported that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had spent a brief private beach vacation on the island since Wednesday but were expected to fly out late on Thursday. The State Department declined to confirm where Clinton was.
The NHC said Hurricane Bill was generating large swells which were pounding the northern Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. In the coming days, swells would start affecting the Bahamas, Bermuda, most of the U.S. East Coast and the Canadian Maritime Provinces, it said.
“These swells will likely cause extremely dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents,” the NHC said.
Bermuda residents said swells were already rising on the island’s popular South Shore beaches and tropical storm force winds were expected on Saturday.
Bill’s closest point of approach to Bermuda was expected to be on Saturday morning when the eye of the hurricane would be passing around 230 miles to the west.
Bermudians were stocking up on emergency supplies and some home supplies stores on the Atlantic island said they had already sold out of bottled water and large flashlights as people prepared for possible power outages.
“Everyone is calm but trade has been brisk. I think everyone is taking heed. People have learned to be prepared,” said Eddie Lindo, sales manager of the Masters store.
Bermuda boat owners were securing their vessels and families and friends prepared to sit out the expected stormy weather at home. Some said they would be drinking Bermuda’s traditional “Dark n’ Stormy” drink -- rum and ginger beer.
“We call them hurricane parties. I think Bermudians figure, since we all have to be cramped up inside, we might as well go through it together!” said 26-year-old law student Jennifer Panchaud.
Writing by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Tom Brown and Mohammad Zargham