Hurricane Fiona caused at least two deaths when it lashed the Dominican Republic earlier this week. Image courtesy NOAA/NHC

Hurricane Fiona caused at least two deaths when it lashed the Dominican Republic earlier this week. Image courtesy NOAA/NHC

Sept. 22 (UPI) — Hurricane Fiona maintained Category 4 strengthen early Thursday as it moved northward with forecasters expecting it to cause dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. east coast in the next few days.

The National Hurricane Center said in its 2 a.m. EDT update that the storm was located 545 miles southwest of Bermuda and about 1,305 miles south-southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and was moving north at 10 mph.

“A north-northeastward or north-eastward motion with an increase in forward speed is expected later today through Friday, followed by a somewhat slower northward motion beginning Friday night to Saturday,” the NHC said in its update.

“On the forecast track, the center of Fiona will pass just to the west of Bermuda tonight, approach Nova Scotia on Friday, and move across Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday.”

A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning were in effect for Bermuda.

While the hurricane is not projected to make landfall anywhere in the United States, the forecasters warn swells it generates will spread westward across the southwestern Atlantic toward the U.S. east coast and Atlantic Canada during the next day or two.

“Large swells generated by Fiona are expected to cause dangerous and possibly life-threatening surf and rip current conditions along the east coast of the United States, the Bahamas, Bermuda and Atlantic Canada,” the forecasters said in a discussion on the storm.

Fiona became a Category 4 storm early Wednesday, after developing into a Category 3 — which meets the definition of a major hurricane — on Tuesday, a day earlier than forecasters expected.

The storm made a turn northward after it lashed Puerto Rico on Sunday and moved over the Dominican Republic. Heavy rains fell on both islands and at least two people were reported dead in the Dominican Republic.

More than a million people in Puerto Rico were still without electricity on Tuesday.

Fiona is the sixth named tropical system in the Atlantic basin this year, following Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle and Earl.

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