Hurricane Floyd picks up steam as it moves toward U.S.
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'From Florida to Carolinas ... pay attention'
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MIAMI (CNN) -- Hurricane Floyd, strengthening as it moves over warm waters in the Atlantic Ocean, will soon become a major storm that could threaten the Bahamas and the United States within days, forecasters said.
"There's a growing risk. It's a strong Category Two now, and it will be a major hurricane at some point," Todd Kimberlain, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told CNN.
The center of Floyd was located about 335 miles (540 km) north-northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 5 p.m. EDT on Saturday. It was moving west-northwest at 12 mph (19 km/h), with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h) and higher gusts.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 105 miles (165 km), and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km). No storm watches or warnings are currently posted.
"The waters ahead are very warm," Kimberlain said. "People from Florida to the Carolinas should really pay attention to this." He said the storm could strike the Bahamas or the mainland in four or five days.
A low pressure ridge over the northeastern United States will play a key role in determining the storm's path.
"If the ridge takes too long, it could allow [the hurricane] time to move in. If it moves more timely, then it could turn [the hurricane] to the northwest, possibly even the north," said Kimberlain.
The storm is expected to turn west-northwest Saturday, "then the chance is it could bend to the west," he said.
The water temperatures in Floyd's projected track are nearly 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) and "they extend to a greater depth, giving the storm a reservoir of heat energy there to feed off of," he said.
Hurricane Andrew in 1992 "intensified very rapidly over the same water conditions," Kimberlain said. "But these conditions are the same in many hurricane seasons; it just depends if a hurricane goes over them and feeds off it."
Miami Bureau Chief John Zarrella contributed to this report.
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National Hurricane Center
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The Met.Office-United Kingdom
National Weather Service
Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies
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