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Hurricane Bertha heads toward Bermuda

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[July 12, 2008]  HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) -- Hurricane Bertha was spinning over open water and headed toward Bermuda, but tourists didn't expect it to wreck their weekend on the idyllic Atlantic island.

CivicSurfers and swimmers remained in the water despite reports of stronger surf and rip currents along the southern coast.

"I'm not concerned at all," said John Wilson, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who was vacationing in the capital of the wealthy British territory. "If you're going to be on an island during a hurricane, the best thing is to be in a hotel with a nice minibar. And I'm on the second floor, so the waves won't hit me!"

About 5 a.m. Friday, Bertha's center was about 225 miles southeast of Bermuda. Forecasters said tropical storm conditions are possible in Bermuda by late Saturday night.

Bertha had maximum sustained winds of about 90 mph with some higher gusting. It was traveling north-northwest at about 5 mph.

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The storm was expected to pass well east of Bermuda, although any inclination toward the west would create stronger winds. Bermuda will likely receive up to 2 inches of rain in the next two days.

"We're on tropical storm watch, but not hurricane watch and that's a plus," said 47-year-old Joanne Cook from New Jersey. "I'll take that."

She said Bertha had only brought bothersome things like large amounts of jellyfish and lionfish.

Dan Karon, 67, from Windsor, Ontario, avoided the water because he felt the riptide was too strong.

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But the churning hurricane didn't faze him.

"If you've been through an ice storm, you're not going to be concerned about other storms," he said. "We're looking forward to it so we can stay here longer."

Forecasters say the strength of the Category 1 storm could fluctuate in the next couple of days.

Bertha became the Atlantic season's first hurricane on July 7 and has vacillated between a Category 1 and 2 storm. The first named storm this year, Arthur, formed in the Atlantic the day before the season officially started June 1 and soaked the Yucatan Peninsula.

[Associated Press; By ELIZABETH ROBERTS]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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