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Hurricane Gaston Reforms in Atlantic Ocean

The hurricane is far off land and there are no warnings for land. But another system could bring rain to Florida, which could hamper Zika control.
Image: Hurricane Gaston satellite image
Hurricane Gaston hovers over the central Atlantic Ocean on Aug. 27, 2016 in a NASA satellite image.NASA via AFP - Getty Images

A hurricane churning in the Atlantic Ocean strengthened Sunday as a separate system threatened to dump rain on Florida, sparking fears about standing water amid a battle against Zika virus.

Hurricane Gaston was around 600 miles east of Bermuda and was moving northwest at 5 mph as of 11 a.m. Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said. It had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. The hurricane had previously weakened to a tropical storm before regaining strength Saturday.

Forecasters expect the hurricane to slow down and swing north by Monday, and there are no warnings issued for land.

Meanwhile, a storm system in the Caribbean was producing showers and storms in Cuba but could bring rain to Florida through Wednesday — something that could cause standing water to collect and add a challenge to the state’s efforts to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus, officials said.

The low pressure system could bring rain to southern Florida and the Florida Keys by Sunday, forecasters said.

The system was large but disorganized, but it has a 40 percent chance of turning into a tropical storm Monday, the hurricane center said. A tropical cyclone doesn't necessarily mean a destructive storm like a hurricane, but just a rotating organized system. There were no land warning issued by the National Hurricane Center as of Sunday morning.

"As this system moves into the Gulf of Mexico it will have a greater potential to organize, so it still poses a significant risk, and we are urging everyone to remain vigilant and to prepare for this possible scenario,” Florida Department of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon said in a statement.

Florida officials, including Gov. Rick Scott, urged residents to dump any water that collects. Florida has confirmed nearly 600 infections of Zika, a virus that can cause severe birth defects when pregnant women are infected — including microcephaly, a condition where the head is unusually small.

The vast majority of those cases are related to travel to countries experiencing Zika transmission, areas that include much of Latin America and the Caribbean.

But more than 40 cases of locally transmitted Zika have been confirmed in Florida, and there have been outbreaks in an area of Miami and Miami Beach. On Tuesday, a case was reported on Florida's Gulf coast.

“Any amount of standing water can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and everyone should dump the water around their homes and businesses following this storm,” Scott said, adding that residents should prepare for “gusty winds and heavy rainfall through Tuesday.”

“Floridians know that this time of year weather can change rapidly and being prepared is the best way to keep your family safe,” Scott said.