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 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.