Helene downgraded to Category 1 storm as it churns in Atlantic well east of Bermuda

Thursday, September 21st 2006, 6:26 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Hurricane Helene was downgraded to a Category 1 storm early Thursday as it churned in the open Atlantic well east of Bermuda, forecasters said.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Helene was centered about 550 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and was moving toward the north near 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Maximum sustained winds were near 90 mph, down from 100 mph Wednesday night.

Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 45 miles.

``Although Helene is expected to pass several hundred miles to the east of Bermuda, large ocean swells producing hazardous surf conditions could affect the area later today and on Friday,'' said Stacy Stewart, hurricane specialist.

Meanwhile, the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon absorbed with another weather system before it neared Spain's northwest Galicia region and Portugal, the hurricane center said. The area reported winds as high as 70 mph Thursday morning, Steward said.

``It's producing gale force winds, which are the same as tropical storm force winds,'' he said.

In the Azores as a hurricane, Gordon moved between the islands of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria. The eye didn't make landfall and sustained winds of 56 mph were recorded on land, said Mark Willis, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center.

Authorities in Portugal's islands said they received no reports of major damage or injury and hurricane warnings were discontinued in the sparsely populated chain.

The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. September is traditionally one of the busiest months of the season.