Hurricane David, one of the most dangerous storms ever to threaten the Caribbean, lost some of its strength late last night and shifted northward, sparing tourist-crowded Barbados the full force of its fury.

However, the midnight advisory from the U.S. Weather Service in Miami said "the weakening trend earlier .. . has not continued. David is still a very dangerous hurricane."

Gale-force winds and rain reached this eastern most island of the Caribbean. But officials said the storm's top winds dropped to 140 mph, down 10 mph, and the storm shifted course slightly to the north and slowed down.

Sir Carlisle Burton, head of the National Hurricane Relief Organization, said, "Indications are that it no longer poses an immediate threat to Barbados."

The U.S. Weather Service said that at midnight EDT the center of the hurricane was about 70 miles northeast of Barbados and moving west-northwest at about 15 miles per hour. It predicted that early this morning it would be near the islands of St. Lucia, Martinique and Dominica, northwest of Barbados in the Lesser Antilles chain that arcs down from Puerto Rico to the northern coast of South America.

Before David began to weaken, a spokesman for the U.S. Weather Service said it was comparable to "the great hurricanes in the history of the Antilles, like the 1831 hurricanes of Barbados and the 1891 hurricane of Martinique."