October 2, 2011 / 9:59 PM / 6 years ago

Hurricane Ophelia weakens en route to Newfoundland

MIAMI (Reuters) - Hurricane Ophelia weakened to a Category 2 storm on Sunday as it races toward Newfoundland off the east coast of Canada, forecasters said.

Ophelia, which had earlier strengthened to become the third major hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season, was still expected to be near hurricane strength when it passed near or over the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland on Sunday night or early Monday.

But its top sustained winds decreased to 100 miles per hour as it gained considerable forward speed late Sunday afternoon, making it a weak Category 2 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

That was down from sustained wind speeds near 133 miles per hour, when Ophelia swept east of Bermuda on Saturday.

The hurricane whipped up showers, thunderstorms and surf on the British overseas territory but had no major impact.

A tropical storm watch was in place for the Avalon Peninsula, but the Miami-based hurricane center said a steady weakening of Ophelia was forecast through Monday.

Meanwhile, in the mid-Atlantic, Tropical Storm Philippe also weakened considerably on Sunday as it churned on a west-northwest track about 825 miles east-southeast of Bermuda.

The hurricane center said Philippe, which posed no apparent risk to land, had seen its top sustained winds drop to 50 miles an hour after revving up to near hurricane force overnight.

Forecasters expect Philippe to swing north and then northeast later this week on a track that will keep it well away from the U.S. east coast.

Writing by Tom Brown; editing by Philip Barbara

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