Hurricane Cristobal hurled heavy rains across Atlantic and Caribbean islands on Tuesday as it headed toward Bermuda, and officials said the storm already had caused at least five deaths.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the hurricane would likely avoid a collision with the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, but it was generating life-threatening surf and rip current conditions from central Florida to North Carolina..

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 120 km/h, but it was expected to strengthen slightly by Thursday after passing northwest of Bermuda. It was centred 800 kilometers southwest of Bermuda and was moving north at 19 km/h. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 75 kilometres from the centre.

Cristobal was expected to dump up to 10 centimetres of rain over Bermuda and lesser amounts over the already sodden Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.

'Ridiculous, endless amount of rain'

Hotel owners and tourist operators in Bermuda were dismayed at the forecast, noting that August already has been one of the rainiest months in recent history for the British island territory.

Puerto Rico Storm

A cluster of storms passed through the area in San Juan on Friday. Hurricane Cristobal, which has caused several deaths, continued over the Atlantic Ocean toward Bermuda on Tuesday. (Ricardo Arduengo/Associated Press)

"It's been a ridiculous, endless amount of rain," said Marlie Powell, owner of the Kingston House Bed & Breakfast. "It's the height of our tourist season, so it's not a happy thing."

The Turks and Caicos said flights resumed Tuesday at the islands' international airport, which closed as the hurricane dumped some 30 centimetres of rain on the islands. The governor's office reported one death after recovering a body from floodwaters on the main island of Providenciales.

"The situation on North Caicos is extremely serious," said Premier Rufus Ewing, who visited the island on Tuesday. "The flood water in some areas is perhaps 1,000 feet (309 metres) across and up to five feet (1.5 metres) deep in places."

The government said in a statement that it was debating whether to pump out floodwaters or use bulldozers to create new routes to reach some communities.

Marie weakening

Floodwaters killed two men in the Dominican Republic and two people in Haiti, where roughly 640 families were left temporarily homeless.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Hurricane Marie was weakening off of Mexico's Pacific coast, though it was generating large, dangerous swells that were nearing the beaches of Southern California.

The hurricane's sustained winds had decreased to near 155 km/h from a peak of 260 km/h on Sunday. It was expected to slump to tropical storm force on Wednesday. Marie was centred about 970 kilometres west-southwest of the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula and moving northwest near 24 km/h.