MIAMI, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Cristobal gathered strength as it passed over the central Bahamas early Monday with winds rising to 60 miles per hour (97 km per hour), and it was veering away from the continental United States, the National Hurricane Center said.
"We expect it to strengthen into a hurricane as it turns north-northeast and poses a threat to Bermuda," said Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist.
Centered about 115 miles (195 km) from San Salvador in the Bahamas, Cristobal is creeping north at about three mph (five kph) and is expected to accelerate on Monday and Tuesday, the NHC said.
Cristobal, the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, soaked the southeast and central Bahamas over the weekend, as well as parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The estimated four to eight inches (10 to 20 cm) of rain also provided some relief to drought-stricken Puerto Rico, bolstering water resources in the capital San Juan.
Forecasters this month downgraded their outlook for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, predicting below-normal activity with seven to 12 named storms, and no more than two reaching major hurricane status.
A major hurricane is considered to be Category 3 or above with winds hitting at least 111 mph (178 kph).
Below-average temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean are making it difficult for larger storms to develop, the forecasters say.
So far this year two hurricanes, Arthur and Bertha, have developed in the Atlantic. Only Arthur, a Category 2 storm, made landfall, on North Carolina's Outer Banks in early July. (Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)