Oct 17, 2014 8:21 PM

Front edge of Hurricane Gonzalo moves onto Bermuda

The Associated Press

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) The leading edge of Hurricane Gonzalo moved onto this British territory Friday night, pounding Bermudans 0with fierce wind and heavy surf as a powerful Category 2 storm that could raise coastal seas as much as 10 feet (3 meters).

The storm's top sustained winds weakened a bit to 110 mph (175 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Gonzalo was moving north-northeast at 16 mph (26 kph) and was expected to batter Bermuda for hours during the night.

A white haze covered the island as wind uprooted trees and waves slammed into the shore. The Bermuda Weather Service said the eye of Gonzalo would move over parts of the island, bringing a lull, but warned people not to go outside because the most dangerous winds were expected after nightfall.

People disregarded that warning and began venturing outside to do quick damage assessments, noting that porches were destroyed and power lines were downed.

Hurricane-force winds were predicted to resume and batter Bermuda for a total of seven hours, and forecasters said a storm surge would cause significant flooding on an island about one-third the size of Washington, D.C. The Bermuda Weather Service said seas outside the reef were 30 feet (9 meters) and still building.

"They're going to get hammered is the bottom line here," said Max Mayfield, a former director of the U.S. hurricane Center in Miami.

The center said the storm's wind speed was likely to slow further as Gonzalo moved away from Bermuda on a track that would take it past Newfoundland and across the Atlantic to Britain and Ireland. A tropical storm watch was issued for parts of southeastern Newfoundland.

The last major hurricane to strike Bermuda was Fabian in September 2003, a Category 3 storm that killed three police officers and another person while causing more than $100 million in damage as it tore off roofs, pulverized trees and flooded famed golf courses. It also damaged the causeway linking the airport to most of Bermuda and left tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power.

Forecasters said Gonzalo was following the same path as Fabian and was expected to cause similar damage.

The last major hurricane to cross land in the Atlantic Basin was Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which hit Cuba as a Category 3 storm.

Bermuda has a population of roughly 70,000 and lies 850 miles (1,400 kilometers) east of the U.S. state of South Carolina. It has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world and the government enforces strict building codes to ensure homes can withstand sustained winds of at least 110 mph (177 kph).

Bermuda closed its schools, the international airport and the causeway, and soldiers from the Bermuda Regiment were dispatched to areas including nursing homes.

Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva expressed alarm earlier in the day over the number of people still on the road as the storm approached. The Royal Gazette newspaper said one man had to be rescued from his boat and authorities briefly reopened the causeway to take a man to the hospital.

The newspaper reported Friday night that firefighters had received more than 20 calls for fires, roof damage and other incidents in the early going of the storm. At least 29,000 people were without power.

A 436-foot (133-meter) frigate of Britain's Royal Navy with a crew of some 180 sailors was expected to arrive Sunday to help with post-storm recovery efforts.

The hurricane arrived just days after Tropical Storm Fay damaged homes and knocked down trees and power lines in Bermuda, and people stripped stores of emergency supplies as they battened down for Gonzalo.

Gonzalo swept by the eastern Caribbean earlier this week, claiming one life in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten. Large ocean swells continued to affect parts of the Virgin Islands, the northern coasts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, parts of the Bahamas and the U.S. southeast coast.

In the Pacific, Ana strengthened into a hurricane as it drove toward Hawaii. It was expected to return to tropical storm strength late Saturday, when it was forecast to be near the Big Island, about 85 to 90 miles (135 to 140 kilometers) offshore to the southwest.

It was forecast to bring 40 to 50 mph (65-80 kph) winds to Honolulu on Oahu and to the Big Island's Kau, Puna and South Kona districts.


Associated Press writer Josh Ball reported this story in Hamilton, Bermuda, and Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.


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