Washington: Gonzalo gathered strength as a major hurricane Wednesday, packing winds of 125 mile (200 kilometers) an hour as it headed over the Atlantic toward Bermuda, US forecasters said.
Gonzalo surged to a Category Three hurricane on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale late Tuesday and the power of its winds continued to pick up through the night.
A hurricane watch went up in Bermuda, which could feel the storm`s fury by Friday, the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center said.
It was already causing large swells in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The NHC said the storm could become a Category Four on Wednesday, although major hurricanes tend to fluctuate in intensity.
A Category Four hurricane can cause major damage and leave cities and towns uninhabitable for weeks, with wind speeds reaching up to 156 miles per hour.
The storm skirted the Caribbean and at 1200 GMT was some 660 miles southwest of Bermuda.
It was expected to continue moving northwest at 13 miles per hour.
Three people were reported missing in the islands of St Martin and St Barthelemy after the storm passed, and French authorities expressed concern about four other people they were trying to contact.
The missing were a man who fell off his boat in St Martin and two others who were trying to get back to their boat in St Barthelemy.
The storm caused property damage on both islands, which were battered by strong winds and heavy rains.
In St Barthelemy, a plane flipped on the airport`s runway, while roads were blocked by fallen trees and telephone and power lines were torn from the ground.
Gonzalo is the seventh storm of the Atlantic season -- which stretches from June to November -- and the third hurricane to slam the Caribbean this year.
Hurricane Cristobal left at least four people dead in late August when it trashed the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands and Dominican Republic with heavy rains causing serious flooding.
In September, Hurricane Edouard remained too far from land to cause any serious damage.
The NHC said it believes storm activity will be lower than average this year.