Hurricane Bill's winds may have slowed slightly in the Atlantic Ocean, but the Bermuda Weather Service nonetheless issued a hurricane watch Thursday to prepare those on the island for a severe storm in the next 36 hours.
The Category 3 hurricane was less than 650 miles from Bermuda Thursday afternoon, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center. The storm is expected to travel between the island and up the U.S.'s East Coast of the United States this weekend.
Hurricane Could Threaten Clinton and Obama Vacations
Hurricane Bill could get in the way of several politicians' vacations in the days ahead. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton are currently relaxing in Bermuda; President Obama and his family plan to travel Sunday to Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.
"If the track were to veer farther left, there may be a change in the president's plan," National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said today. "Otherwise, typical windy and wavy action for Martha's Vineyard with much higher waves that what you would normally see."
Hurricane Bill was downgraded early this morning from a Category 4 to a Category 3 storm. Still, the storm carries 120 mph winds, weakened only slightly from the 135 mph winds it sustained last night.
But forecasters also say the storm's winds could easily pick up again during the day -- perhaps reaching 145 mph -- and threaten Bermuda soon as a more serious hurricane.
"There's still an opportunity for it to re-intensify some as it crosses still very warm waters to the east and northeast of the Bahamas today and tonight," Read said.
Large waves off the islands in the Northeast Caribbean Sea, the Bahamas and Bermuda are likely today and Friday.
"Some strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours and Bill could regain Category 4 status on Friday," read today's afternoon report from the National Hurricane Center.
Fueled by warm water, Bill could then travel northwest, bringing dangerous surf to the East Coast, from the Mid-Atlantic Friday to Cape Cod and north to Maine and Canada's Maritime Islands by Sunday.
Forecast models have shown the storm could take a slight turn farther to the north-northwest by late Friday, perhaps sparing the East Coast. The crux of the storm could remain off of the coastline.
No matter the status of the storm, late summer beachgoers should take caution. Waves along the East Coast could be 15 to 20 feet high, Read said.
"We're going to start seeing the main impact of very large swells that will give you rip currents, issues at the beach," Read said Wednesday. "And being in the summertime season and people wanting to go out and enjoy the beach weather, the waters are going to start getting dangerous."
Bill -- the first official hurricane of the storm season -- is a widening storm with hurricane-force winds now extending some 105 miles from its center and tropical-storm force winds reaching 260 miles outward, the National Hurricane Center reported.
Hurricane Bill earned its name Saturday when it became a tropical storm. By Monday morning, it was deemed the first hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Tornadoes Strike Midwest
Dangerous weather is not confined to the ocean Thursday. As people on Bermuda and along the Eastern seaboard prepared for the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, Midwesterners surveyed the damage from more than a dozen tornadoes and powerful thunderstorms that swirled in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa on Wednesday, downing trees and destroying houses.
The home of 13-year-old Ryan Degner of Williamsville, Ill., was among them. Degner was home alone last night in his basement when a tornado struck, the howling storm drowning out the music he was listening to on his mp3 player.
"I was praying, over and over and over again," he said Thursday on "Good Morning America." "I just had my eyes closed."
Degner emerged from the basement to find his home and his neighborhood in shambles.
"The whole side of our house was missing and part of the roof," he said. "I got really, really scared and started shaking."
The teenager fortunately stayed safe, later updating his MySpace status to share the scary news with his friends. His father later found his missing cat, Matrix.
In Chesterton, Ind., a storm caused major property damage. Another of several twisters also touched down just north of Minneapolis, with 100-mile-per-hour winds peeling the roof off an apartment building and heavy rains flooding parts of the city.
ABC News' Jeffrey Kofman, Jan Simmonds, Katie Escherich, Barbara Pinto, Sharyn Alfonsi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.