Hurricane Gordon weakens into a tropical storm near Azores; Hurricane Helene to miss Bermuda

Wednesday, September 20th 2006, 8:55 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Hurricane Gordon weakened into a tropical storm early Wednesday near the Azores islands, prompting forecasters to discontinue hurricane warnings for the sparsely populated chain.

Hurricane Helene, meanwhile, was expected to miss Bermuda.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Gordon had top sustained winds of 60 mph, well below the 74-mph threshold for a Category 1 hurricane. It was centered about 130 miles east of the island of Sao Miguel in the eastern Azores.

Tropical storm force winds extended up to 230 miles from its center, but the winds on the islands are rapidly diminishing, said Mark Willis, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Gordon was moving toward the east near 35 mph, forecasters said, and a gradual turn toward the east-northeast and further weakening was expected over the next day.

As a hurricane, Gordon moved between the islands of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, according to the hurricane center. The eye didn't make landfall and sustained wind of 56 mph was recorded on land, Willis said.

Gordon was expected to weaken more and be absorbed by another weather system before it could possibly affect Spain, Portugal and the British Isles, forecasters said. It would be similar to the strong winter storms normal in those areas in Europe.

Another storm, Hurricane Helene, was moving northeast in the open Atlantic and was expected to remain well east of Bermuda, forecasters said. It's maximum sustained winds were recorded at 110 mph at 8 a.m. EDT.

Helene was centered about 745 miles southeast of Bermuda and moving toward the northwest near 9 mph. A gradual turn to the north was expected and possibly an increase in strength over the next day, forecasters said.

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