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Noel grows into a hurricane

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Tropical storm warnings lifted for southeast Florida, Bahamas
  • Winds approaching 80 miles per hour
  • Residents "from North Carolina northward" should pay attention
  • Dozens of people killed in Dominican Republic and Haiti
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(CNN) -- Noel was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane Thursday as it moved away from the Bahamas and out into the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Although the storm is predicted to remain well off the U.S. coast, residents "from North Carolina northward" should pay attention to it, forecasters said.

Noel triggered flooding and landslides that killed at least 64 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti this week.

Some 37,500 people were forced from their homes. Video Watch surging floodwaters that wiped out a town »

As of 11 p.m., the hurricane's maximum sustained winds were near 80 mph, with higher gusts, the hurricane center said. The storm's center was about 80 miles (285 kilometers) north-northeast of Nassau, Bahamas, and about 760 miles (1225 kilometers), west-southwest of Bermuda. See the storm's projected path »

Hurricane-force winds extended 45 miles (75 km) from Noel's center, and tropical-storm force winds extended up to 145 miles, the NHC said.

Forecasters expect no significant change in strength during the next 24 hours, during which time Noel is expected to lose tropical characteristics.

"Noel should then strengthen and increase in size as an extratropical cyclone," the hurricane center said.

Forecasters predicted Noel would dump up about 1 inch of rain across North Carolina's Outer Banks and 2 to 4 inches with isolated maximum totals of 6 inches across eastern New England.

Earlier Thursday, a tropical storm warning for southeastern Florida was discontinued as Noel turned north-northeast and headed in the opposite direction.

The hurricane center said total rainfall of less than 1 inch was expected in Florida in connection with the storm, and rainfall of about an inch was possible along the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The forecasters said at 11 p.m. that all watches and warnings for the Bahamas were discontinued. A gale warning for Bermuda remained in effect, meaning that sustained winds 39 to 54 mph are expected or occurring.

On Thursday morning, CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf said high waves were seen off the coast of Florida because of the storm.

In the Dominican Republic, the Center for Emergency Operations reported 30 deaths, 15 injuries and at least 25,000 evacuations. The nation's government late Wednesday arranged for $200 million in emergency aid for the disaster-struck areas. Photo See scenes of heavy flooding »

The money will be chiefly used to finance the construction of temporary homes and the repair of damaged buildings and houses, a press statement said.

In the impoverished nation of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, devastating floods and mudslides have ravaged the area and left 34 people dead, World Vision aid worker Elvire Douglas told CNN in a phone call from Port-au-Prince.

More than 9,000 people have sought refuge in shelters posted throughout the country after nearly 2,000 homes were damaged and 745 others were destroyed, she said. In addition, some people are still missing.

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Cuban civil defense officials said about 9,000 people had been evacuated from the eastern part of the island that was hardest hit by the storm.

Noel is the 14th named storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends on November 30. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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