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Hurricane Felicia expected to reach Category 3 before weakening


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hurricane Felicia is expected to strengthen to a Category 3 storm Wednesday, but the current forecast has it weakening to a tropical storm as it approaches the Big Island early next week.

At 11 p.m. Tuesday, Felicia was about 1,600 miles east-southeast of Hawaii and moving west-northwest at 12 mph, forecasters said. The rapidly intensifying storm has maximum sustained winds near 105 mph with higher gusts making it a Category 2 hurricane. Hurricane force winds extend about 35 miles from the center.

“Some strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours and Felicia will likely become a major hurricane later today,” the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. advisory said.

However, the storm is expected to move over cooler waters on Friday which should mean “faster weakening than was indicated in the previous forecast.”

The storm should cross into the Central Pacific early Saturday, forecasters say, adding that it is too early to tell exactly how big the storm will be or where it will be as it nears the islands.

The current forecast has Felicia hundreds of miles east of the Big Island as a tropical storm by late Sunday.

Behind Felicia is Tropical Storm Enrique, which at 11 p.m. was 825 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja, California.

It is moving west-northwest at 15 mph and has sustained winds of 50 mph with stronger gusts. The storm is expected to weaken in a day or two, hurricane center forecasters said.

These are the fifth and sixth storms in the Eastern Pacific this hurricane season.