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Hurricane Bertha expected to weaken, unlikely to make landfall in US

A surfer enters the water to take advantage of the high waves in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Bertha pushed just south of Puerto Rico on Saturday as it unleashed heavy rains and strong winds across the region.(AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

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A surfer enters the water to take advantage of the high waves in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Bertha pushed just south of Puerto Rico on Saturday as it unleashed heavy rains and strong winds across the region.(AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

MIAMI - Hurricane Bertha was churning northward far from land, posing no direct threat to the U.S. East Coast, and was expected to weaken Tuesday.

The centre of the storm was expected to stay offshore as it passes wide of the U.S. mainland over the next few days, and the storm is also likely to miss Bermuda.

"There's no direct impact that will be felt on the U.S. East Coast. However, there could be added surf and rip current conditions," said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

That doesn't mean coastal residents should let their guard down, though.

"We've still got the peak of the season to go on the Atlantic side, mid-August to mid-October," Feltgen said.

The hurricane formed Monday morning, and its maximum sustained winds decreased to 75 mph (120 kph) by the late evening. Further weakening was expected over the next two days. The hurricane was centred about 490 miles (790 kilometres) west of Bermuda and was moving north-northeast at 20 mph (31 kph).

On Sunday, the storm buffeted parts of the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos with rain and gusty winds, after passing over the Dominican Republic and causing temporary evacuation of dozens of families as its downpours raised rivers out of their banks. Earlier, it dumped rain on Puerto Rico, which has been parched by unusually dry weather.

Before Bertha reached the Turks & Caicos, residents pulled boats ashore or moored them at marinas in the tourism-dependent archipelago that has little natural protection from strong storm surges. Tourism Director Ralph Higgs said hotels were "taking the threat of the storm seriously."

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