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Floods, mudslides left in Otto's wake

Hurricane weakens over the Atlantic after it caused mudslides, closed schools in Caribbean

MIAMI | October 9, 2010

Hurricane Otto continued to weaken on Saturday as it moved over the central Atlantic Ocean, forecasters said, adding that the cyclone will soon weaken to a tropical or post-tropical storm.

It had strengthened from a tropical storm into the eighth hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season Friday producing flooding rains in the northern Leeward Islands and forcing schools in some areas to close for a third straight day.

However, forecasters from the National Hurricane Center said the hurricane is expected to move rapidly toward the east-northeast over the weekend, away from the islands.

A resident of St. Thomas (USVI) reported Friday that rainfall produced by Otto was approaching local records and that numerous mudslides had been reported.

"Otto is forecast to accelerate further on a generally northeastward course during the next 24 to 36 hours in between a large deep-layer trough over the northwest Atlantic and a subtropical ridge to its east," said Todd Kimberlain, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center. "Once post-tropical, Otto is expected to abruptly decelerate and turn eastward and southeastward as it rounds the top of a shortwave ridge and dives into the west side of a trough over the northeast Atlantic."

Kimberlain said Otto's maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour, with higher gusts. "The cloud pattern associated with Otto has gradually been decreasing in organization during the last several hours," he said, adding that Otto is expected to further weaken as it enters a strongly sheared environment and moves over progressively cooler waters.

"Global models suggest that extratropical transition may have already begun," the hurricane specialist said. "And the completion of this process, although still a bit uncertain, is forecast by about 48 hours."

On the forecast track, the Azores may see some indirect effects from the storm by early Tuesday. By then, Otto will likely be either a post-tropical storm or a post-tropical depression. But until then, Otto will stay far away from any land.

(Copyright 2010 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved}

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