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Hurricane Isabel a powerful Category 5 storm

This animated map shows Isabel's movement from 7:45 a.m. EDT to 10:45 p.m. Friday.
This animated map shows Isabel's movement from 7:45 a.m. EDT to 10:45 p.m. Friday.

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SPECIAL REPORT
• Interactive: Safety Tips
• Flash animation: How hurricanes form
• Special report: Hurricane Season
HURRICANE ISABEL
At 5 a.m. EDT Saturday
Latitude: 22.0 north
Longitude: 60.4 west
Position: 455 miles (730 kilometers) northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Top sustained winds: Near 150 mph (240 kph)
Map: Projected path

(CNN) -- The most powerful storm in the Atlantic Ocean in nearly five years, Hurricane Isabel rolled west far from land early Saturday, with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 mph (260 km/h).

Isabel is a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength. Hurricanes are ranked 1 to 5 on the scale.

At 11 p.m. EDT, Isabel was 320 miles (515 kilometers) northeast of the northern Leeward Islands, moving steadily to the west at 9 mph (14 km/h), according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

There has not been a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since Hurricane Mitch in 1998. That giant storm slammed into Central America and sped across Florida into the North Atlantic. Mitch caused more than 9,000 deaths in Central America from flooding and mudslides.

The last Category 5 hurricane to hit the United States was Andrew in 1992.

The hurricane center's forecasters said Isabel could experience some "temporary weakening" Friday and predicted a gradual weakening over the coming five days.

Isabel's current direction could put it on the path toward the Bahamas and the U.S. East Coast, but forecasters said it is still too early to predict accurately.

Residents in the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are being warned of possible large ocean swells and dangerous surf conditions over the next several days, but no storm warnings or watches have been issued.

Forecast paths for the next five days show Isabel staying over open ocean, well north of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and south of Bermuda.

If the storm moves on that path, the Bahamas could be affected by Tuesday, forecasters said.


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