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Florence Strengthens to Hurricane

Tropical Storm Florence has strengthened to a hurricane.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says winds from Florence reached the minimum hurricane strength of 119 kilometers per hour early Sunday as it moved northwest in the Atlantic Ocean toward Bermuda.

It is expected to continue strengthening throughout the day.

Storm preparations are in effect in Bermuda, where the hurricane is expected to strike some time late Sunday or early Monday. The British territory has closed its only airport and told emergency workers to be ready for the storm, which is already creating large ocean swells.

Forecasters say Florence is a large storm. Its effects could also be felt in the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.

Florence is the second hurricane of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season.

Hurricane Ernesto struck Haiti last month before weakening to a tropical storm and traveling up the east coast of the United States. About 10 deaths were blamed on the storm.

This year's hurricane season has been much milder than predicted, after a record-setting season last year that produced 27 named storms, 15 of them hurricanes. Florence is the sixth named storm of the year.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.