Leslie swirls near Bermuda

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Hamilton, Bermuda - Tropical Storm Leslie churned east of Bermuda on Sunday, buffeting the island with stiff winds and rain while it headed on a path that could carry it to Canada's easternmost province of Newfoundland.

A tropical storm warning remained in effect across Bermuda, where forecasters warned hazardous surf and rip currents were expected to continue through Monday.

Most flights in and out of Bermuda were cancelled on Sunday and bus and ferry services were suspended.

At 11am (15h00 GMT) Leslie was 225km east of the British territory, moving north at 16km/h.

It had sustained winds of 96km/h and could strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane over the open Atlantic on Monday with winds reaching 120km/h over the open Atlantic, the US National Hurricane Centre said.

An affluent island home to 65 000 people, Bermuda, a global reinsurance centre, has strict building codes and is well prepared for storms that sweep across the Atlantic during the June-through-November hurricane season.

With Leslie moving north, swells generated by the storm are expected to affect parts of the US East Coast, the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Forecasters said Leslie would begin to move away from Bermuda later on Sunday. Forecast models show the storm passing as a hurricane over parts of Canada's Newfoundland on Tuesday.

Farther out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Michael was downgraded to a Category 1 storm. Michael, the first Category 3 storm of the Atlantic season, had sustained winds of 150km/h on Sunday and was forecast to become a tropical storm by Tuesday, the hurricane centre said.

Forecasters were also watching a low pressure trough located about 322km/h west of the Cape Verde Islands. The NHC gave it a medium chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours, saying conditions were marginally favourable for it to develop. - Reuters

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