ST. PETERSBURG -- Tropical Storm Bertha has strengthened slightly early Monday as it moves northward away from the Bahamas.
The storm is expected to stay away from the Florida coast as it eventually turns northeast in the western Atlantic.
According to Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez, the storm will continue to move away from the Bahamas today and pass about midway between the U.S. east coast and Bermuda on Tuesday.
"The storm is strengthening and Bertha could become a hurricane today," Marquez said. "But it will stay east of the U.S. coast and will move between the coast and Bermuda."
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There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.
Bertha is moving toward the north near 16 mph and this general motion is expected to continue today, followed by a gradual turn toward the north-northeast and northeast during the next 48 hours.
Reports from a NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 70 mph with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is expected during the next day or so, and Bertha is forecast to become a hurricane later today. Slow weakening is expected to begin by late Tuesday.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 160 miles from the center.