Tropical storm Humberto gains strength and is expected to return to hurricane force by evening but its track now puts it far from Bahamas and US coast, National Hurricane Center says.

A satellite image of Hurricane Humberto, west of Bermuda, US, September 17, 2019.
A satellite image of Hurricane Humberto, west of Bermuda, US, September 17, 2019. (Reuters)

Hurricane Humberto grew into a powerful Category 3 storm on Tuesday evening, and officials on Bermuda made plans for early shutdowns of schools, public transportation and government offices on the British Atlantic territory ahead of the storm's likely close pass on Wednesday.

Tropical Storm Imelda, meanwhile, swept ashore on Texas' Gulf coast threatening to deluge parts of Southwest Texas and southwestern Louisiana with up to 18 inches (46 centimetres) of rain over the next few days. 

It was the first named storm to hit the Houston area since Hurricane Harvey's heavy rains flooded more than 150,000 homes around the city and caused an estimated $125 billion in damages in Texas.

Category 3 hurricane

In Bermuda, National Security Minister Wayne Caines told reporters that schools, government offices, and ferries on the island would close at noon Wednesday and bus service would end at 4 pm as officials got ready for Humberto.

Officials said tropical storm-force winds were expected to start hitting Bermuda, with hurricane-force gusts, starting about 3 pm on Wednesday and lasting until about 4 am Thursday. 

Humberto was predicted to pass just to the north of Bermuda, but a small shift in the track could bring the storm over the island itself.

The US National Hurricane Center said Humberto's maximum sustained winds had strengthened to about 115 mph (185 kph) Tuesday evening and would probably remain a Category 3 hurricane through Thursday. 

The storm was centered about 405 miles (655 kilometers) west-southwest of Bermuda and moving to the east-northeast at 12 mph (19 kph).

Bermuda was expected to see rainfall of up to 4 inches (10 centimeters), with large swells along the coast.

More tropical storms 

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lorena formed off Mexico's Pacific Coast, and forecasters predicted heavy rains and flooding by Thursday, likely without it reaching hurricane force.

Lorena had top winds of 50 mph (85 kph) Tuesday evening. It was centered about 195 miles (315 kilometers) south of the resort town of Zihuatanejo and was moving northwest at 15 mph (24 kph).

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the coast between Zihuatanejo and Cabo Corrientes.

Two other tropical storms, Kiko and Mario, were farther out in the Pacific and posed no threat to land.

Tropical Depression Ten also formed far out in the Atlantic and could become a hurricane Friday as it nears the outermost Caribbean islands.

Source: AP