Igor packs punch in Atlantic but likely to miss land

Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:44pm EDT
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MIAMI (Reuters) - Powerful Hurricane Igor churned westward in the Atlantic Ocean as a dangerous Category 4 storm and could strengthen even further on Monday, forecasters said.

Igor was strong enough to cause catastrophic damage but posed no immediate threat to land or energy interests. It was too soon to rule out an impact on the U.S. East Coast, but the chances of such a landfall were viewed as slim.

The major hurricane had top sustained winds of 150 miles per hour and could turn to a Category 5 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

All the computer models keep Igor in the Atlantic and away from the Gulf of Mexico, where U.S. oil and gas operations are clustered.

Behind Igor, Tropical Storm Julia developed over the far eastern Atlantic Ocean on Sunday, becoming the 10th named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season.

Igor, the fourth hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic season, was centered 880 miles east of the Caribbean's northern Leeward Islands at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), the Miami-based center said.

Igor seemed to be nearing its peak intensity but it wouldn't take much to boost it into the highest level of a Category 5 storm, with winds topping 155 mph, the forecasters said.

Igor was moving west and was expected to turn west-northwest by Tuesday. Computer models disagreed on how sharp a turn Igor would take, said Michael Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center.

A west-northwest track would take it near Bermuda on Saturday but a sharper northerly turn would keep it over the open Atlantic.   Continued...

<p>Hurricane Igor is seen in this satellite image. REUTERS/National Hurricane Center/Handout</p>