HAMILTON, Bermuda – Leslie weakened from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm as it stalled over the open Atlantic on Friday, but forecasters said it could become a hurricane again before heading for a swing past the wealthy British territory of Bermuda.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said in a late morning update that Leslie's top sustained winds had dropped to near 70 mph (110 kph), below the hurricane threshold of 74 mph (120 kph).
The storm was stalled in place over the open Atlantic about 410 miles (660 kilometers) south-southeast of Bermuda and was not forecast to start moving north again until Saturday. The center said the storm could regain hurricane intensity over the weekend.
Residents crowded into stores Thursday to stock up on supplies, while hotels reported cancellations of trips to Bermuda, which is popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.
South shore beaches were closed Thursday afternoon as the approaching storm whipped up surf, and residents stocked up on food, propane, tarp, flashlights and water.
"It's great to see people are not waiting until the last minute. We only have three empty shopping carts left at the moment," said Henry Durham, the manager at Gorham's hardware store.
Some people weren't very worried, because Bermuda enforces strict building codes to withstand rough weather. Homes must have walls at least eight inches thick and be able to withstand 150 mph wind gusts. Many power and phone lines are underground.
"The landlord assures me we have a very sturdy roof," said Toby Crawford, a British software developer who moved to Bermuda from London a year ago with his wife, Michelle. "I'm looking forward to it, having not experienced one before."
Michelle Crawford said the couple was prepared to combat boredom being cooped up in their apartment in Pembroke, near the capital of Hamilton.
"I have to admit we've opted for the alcohol route as well. We've heard that people have hurricane parties, but so far Toby and I are just planning to hole up at our house with books, board games and wine," she said.
National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief urged all residents to complete their storm preparations by Friday, when the territory's schools would be closed.
Swells from Leslie were affecting Bermuda, the U.S. East Coast, the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip currents.
Out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Michael weakened from a Category 3 storm to a Category 2, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) by late Thursday. Earlier in the day, it had become the first Category 3 of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Early Friday, Michael was moving northward near 3 mph (6 kph) over the open ocean and was not a threat to land. It was about 920 miles (1,485 kilometers) west-southwest of the Azores.