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Big, bad Bill may take a swing at the Northeast

Hurricane Bill is a large and powerful Category 4 hurricane heading west-northwest in the Atlantic with further strengthening possible. Visit The Weather Channel for the latest updates and satellite imagery.

The National Hurricane Center has issued advisories for Bill and regularly updates probable paths of the storm as well as wind speed and wave height probabilities.

As the hurricane season becomes more active, BoatU.S. is warning boaters and is offering a no-cost, online storm preparation tool at that can help boaters ensure their vessel makes it safely through the next storm.

"It's been a slow hurricane season, so far," said BoatU.S. director of damage avoidance Bob Adriance, "which leads some to forget the importance of storm preparation. However, research has shown that the chances of a boat being damaged can be significantly reduced with the right preparation. The time to think about storm preparations is now, before a hurricane watch is posted for your area."

Storm preparations include hauling boats from marinas or removing them from boat lifts and securing them ashore with tiedowns, reducing windage by removing things like biminis and sails, adding extras lines and chafe protection to boats in a slip, and other measures.

At the online BoatU.S. Hurricane Resource Center , boaters can find a downloadable 12-page guide to preparing boats and marinas for hurricanes, a hurricane preparation worksheet, and current hurricane tracking charts with up-to-the minute storm tracking tools with landfall strike probabilities, wind band information and "spaghetti" models showing forecasters' predicted storm paths.