Hurricane Fred strengthened into a Category 3 storm on Wednesday over the eastern Atlantic, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

 As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, the storm was located about 500 miles west-southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and was moving to the west-northwest at about 13 mph, forecasters said. It had top winds of 120 miles per hour (195 km per hour).

Hurricane Fred was expected to turn northwest and then north, keeping thousands of miles east of the U.S. East Coast.

The five-day forecast track issued by the National Hurricane Center would keep it in the eastern Atlantic, far from the Gulf of Mexico, where U.S. oil and gas operations are clustered.

Additional strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, followed by a slow weakening beginning on Thursday, said the hurricane center.