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Powerful Isabel roars west, still far from land

Satellite image shows Hurricane Isabel on Tuesday at 8:27 a.m. EDT.

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At 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday
Latitude: 19.6 north
Longitude: 46.9 west
Position: 980 miles (1,580 kilometers) east of the northern Leeward Islands 
Top sustained winds: Near 135 mph (215 km/h)
Map: Projected path
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(CNN) -- Hurricane Isabel vigorously moved west on Tuesday as it swirled its 135 mph (215 km/h) winds nearly 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the nearest land, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Isabel became a dangerous Category 4 storm overnight, and forecasters said it is possible that the storm could reach near 145 mph (232 km/h) winds by Wednesday, followed by slow weakening. A Category 5 hurricane has winds topping 155 mph (248 km/h).

At 11 a.m. EDT, the hurricane center said Isabel was 980 miles (1,580 km) east of the northern Leeward Islands, moving west-northwest near 14 mph (22 km/h).

"A turn toward the west is expected during the next day or two," forecasters said. "Some slight additional strengthening is possible during the next 24 hours."

Isabel is the fourth hurricane of the 2003 Atlantic season and the second major storm, coming on the heels of Hurricane Fabian, which slammed into Bermuda on Friday.

Isabel is following a similar course across the Atlantic to that followed by Fabian in its early days, but National Hurricane Center forecasters have not yet seen indications that Isabel will make the northeasterly turn that brought Fabian to Bermuda.

Instead, a forecast map shows the storm trekking more or less west through the weekend, coming within 200 miles of the north of the northeasternmost Caribbean islands, then taking a northwesterly path.

The hurricane center is also keeping an eye on Tropical Depression 14, which is brewing in the far eastern Atlantic and could become Tropical Storm Juan "in a day or two," forecasters said.

At 11 a.m. EDT, the disorganized storm was about 105 miles (265 km) south of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands.

The storm doubled its forward speed to 10 mph (17 km/h), traveling northwest, and slightly increased top wind speeds to 35 mph (55 km/h). Forecasters dropped predictions that the storm could make hurricane status by the end of the week.

A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm when its top wind speeds reach 39 mph and a hurricane at 74 mph.

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