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Tropical Storm Gonzalo strengthens, heading for US East Coast

More than 50 million people are in the path of severe weather heading to the East Coast this week as recently formed Tropical Storm Gonzalo continues to gain strength in the Atlantic. 

According to the National Hurricane Center, Gonzalo is expected to become a hurricane by Thursday. 

As of 11am Wednesday, the storm was centered about 1,205 miles east of the southern Windward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 50mph. It was heading west at 14mph.

The Hurricane Center said that officials in the Windward Islands should continue to monitor the storm. 

Gonzalo is moving slightly northwest, making it unclear whether or not the storm will hit Florida. 

Gonzalo’s strengthening breaks a record set by Tropical Storm Gert, which formed on July 24, 2005. 

So far this year, Cristobal, Danielle, Edouard and Fay also set records for being the earliest named Atlantic storms of their respective place in the alphabet.

The average time for the seventh named storm in a season is on September 16. 

On Wednesday, the first hurricane of the eastern Pacific season formed far from land.

The hurricane center said that Hurricane Douglas was centered about 1,785 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii, Wednesday morning with maximum sustained winds of 75mph.

It was moving to the west at 15mph. That track would carry it toward Hawaii on Sunday or Monday, but forecasters said it was likely to weaken back to a tropical depression by that point.

Meanwhile, residents along the East Coast are being warned about severe weather that is set to hit the I-95 corridor on Wednesday. 

According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, more than 56 million people are under a slight risk of severe weather.

Another 35 million are under a marginal risk, the center said, adding that cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Charleston, West Virginia, are likely to get hit. 

Later on Wednesday, parts of Maryland New York will also be at risk for severe weather.  

‘A very humid air mass spreading out across the East on Wednesday is going to be a key ingredient which will cause some heavy thunderstorms to break out, especially in the central Appalachians and the mid-Atlantic region,’ AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Carl Babinski, said. 

Weather experts say as the storms gain strength, they will likely produce flooding downpours and damaging wind gusts. 

However, forecasters warned that hail and an isolated tornado are not out of the question. 

‘By early Wednesday night, there will be several locations near the I-95 corridor that will get some much-needed relief from intense heat and humidity, but it will come at a price,’ Babinski said.

‘Thunderstorms will be capable of producing damaging wind gusts, as well as a downpour that could cause flash flooding,’ he said. 

The severe weather is expected to continue into Thursday night before easing up Friday morning. 

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