Hurricane Danny strengthens to category 3 'major' storm

Hurricane Danny is seen in an NOAA satellite image.
Hurricane Danny is seen in an NOAA satellite image. REUTERS

MIAMI (AFP) - Hurricane Danny strengthened into a major category 3 storm Friday as it churned in the central Atlantic but forecasters expect it to weaken.

Danny, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, had been upgraded to a category 2 storm earlier on Friday and then strengthened further to achieve "major hurricane" status.

It was located about 1,450km east of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean on Friday, moving west-northwest at a pace of 16kmh, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre said.

"There are no coastal warnings or watches in effect," it said, though it cautioned that "interests in the Leeward Islands should monitor the progress of Danny."

Maximum sustained winds have reached 185kmh, but forecasters expect Danny to enter a "less conducive environment" as it turns west on Saturday and to weaken over the next 48 hours.

But the category 3 designation means Danny now qualifies as a "major hurricane."

Earlier this month, experts predicted that there would be, at most, one major hurricane during the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season.

They also gave a 90 per cent chance this hurricane season would be less active than usual, due in part to the dampening effects of a strong El Nino weather pattern.