updated 9/15/2006 6:12:42 AM ET 2006-09-15T10:12:42

Hurricane Gordon was downgraded to a Category 2 storm Friday morning, and Tropical Storm Helene was not gaining strength as both storms remained in the open Atlantic where they posed no threat to land, forecasters said.

Gordon’s top sustained winds were near 110 mph, just below the 111 mph threshold for a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the storm was located about 680 miles east of Bermuda and moving northeast near 9 mph. Weakening was expected over the next day, said Jamie Rhome, a hurricane specialist.

Helene had top sustained winds near 45 mph, but was expected to strengthen by the weekend. It was centered about 1,060 miles west of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and moving west-northwest near 15 mph, forecasters said.

“Helene will gradually strengthen and may eventually become a hurricane, but it doesn’t look like it will happen quickly,” Rhome said. It is not an immediate threat to land, he said.

Helene expected to weaken
Meanwhile, in Canada, Hurricane Florence’s remnants brought 100 mph wind gusts and bands of rain to southern Newfoundland, damaging roads, blowing shingles off roofs and knocking out power, the Canadian Hurricane Center said. But winds should decrease as the storm moves eastward and weakens.

The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast for the season expects between seven and nine hurricanes, a slight reduction from earlier predictions.

Federal scientists said Wednesday that the season hasn’t been as busy because weak El Nino conditions have developed in the tropical Pacific. El Nino means higher ocean temperatures that inhibit hurricanes by increasing crosswinds over the Caribbean. This vertical wind shear can rip storms apart or even stop them from forming.

But National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists warned that the El Nino impacts on hurricanes have been small so far.

“We are still in the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season, and conditions remain generally conducive for hurricane formation,” said Gerry Bell, the agency’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.

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