updated 9/15/2006 5:56:53 PM ET 2006-09-15T21:56:53

Hurricane Gordon was downgraded to a Category 1 storm Friday and Tropical Storm Helene strengthened as both storms churned in the open Atlantic, but neither immediately threatened land, forecasters said.

Gordon’s top sustained winds were near 90 mph, down 10 mph from earlier in the day, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At 5 p.m. ET, it was nearly stationary and centered about 670 miles east of Bermuda. The hurricane was expected to weaken and move slowly to the north-northeast Friday or Saturday, said Jamie Rhome, a hurricane specialist.

Helene had top sustained winds near 70 mph, up from 45 mph earlier in the day, and could become a hurricane, forecasters said. It was centered about 1,255 miles east of the Leeward Islands and moving west-northwest near 15 mph.

It is not an immediate threat to land, and forecasts predicted it would be well east of Bermuda in five days.

Seven to nine hurricanes predicted
The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast for the season expects between seven and nine hurricanes, a slight reduction from earlier predictions.

Scientists said this week that weak El Niño conditions had inhibited hurricane development by bringing higher ocean temperatures that increase crosswinds over the Caribbean. The winds can rip storms apart or stop them from forming.

But National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists warned that the El Niño effect on hurricanes has been small so far. And the season, which lasts until Nov. 30, is still at its traditional peak.

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