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Category 3 Hurricane Gonzalo aims for Bermuda

Category 3 Hurricane Gonzalo aims for Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo neared Bermuda as residents of the British territory coped with the aftermath of Sunday's Tropical Storm Fay.

Hamilton, Bermuda: Hurricane Gonzalo barreled toward Bermuda as a major Category 3 storm on Wednesday, threatening the tiny archipelago where people rushed to repair homes and clear trees and power lines knocked down by a weekend tropical storm.

Gonzalo had top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph) and was about 590 miles (955 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda in the evening. It was moving north-northwest at 9 mph (15 kph) and was expected to be near Bermuda early Friday, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Gonzalo had become a Category 4 storm earlier on Wednesday, with forecasters noting that major hurricanes often fluctuate in intensity.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Bermuda, and forecasters said a dangerous storm surge could cause significant flooding on the island, which has some 64 miles (103 kilometers) of shoreline and is about one-third the size of the US capital. Some 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 centimeters) of rain was predicted.

Dennis Feltgen, a National Hurricane Center meteorologist, said it was too early to tell whether the hurricane would actually hit Bermuda, but he warned people to be prepared for severe weather.

"The eye of the hurricane does not have to go over Bermuda for them not to experience severe conditions," he said in a phone interview.

The government said it would close the island's international airport Thursday night, when tropical storm conditions are first expected. Several airlines increased the number of flights departing Bermuda ahead of the storm.

Hurricane Gonzalo neared Bermuda as residents of the British territory coped with the aftermath of Sunday's Tropical Storm Fay.

More than 1,000 homes remained without power Wednesday and homeowners worked to repair damaged roofs. The government called out 200 soldiers of the Bermuda Regiment to help with cleanup efforts on the island of roughly 70,000 people. Those living in Riddell's Bay in the island's southwest region have been without power since Sunday.

"I'm still without power, and soon everyone else will be, too," said Max Atherden. "(The storm) doesn't make any difference to me."

Bermuda, some 850 miles (1,400 kilometers) east of the U.S. state of South Carolina, has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world and its strict building codes make structures particularly capable of withstanding storms.

Hotels in Bermuda reported a steady increase in bookings as people sought safety in secure buildings. Residents stripped the island's hardware stores of generators, batteries, candles and other items and picked up free tarpaulin distributed by the government.

"After the scare at the weekend, people are paying attention this time," said Harry Moniz, a store employee. "We've already sold out of generators and are stocking the shelves as fast as items are flying out of the store."

Supermarkets and gas stations braced for crowds, and many businesses expected to close early on Thursday to allow employees to prepare for the hurricane. Bermuda's schools reopened Wednesday, but were expected to close early.

Gonzalo swept through the eastern Caribbean earlier this week, claiming at least one life in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten. Two people were left missing, one in St. Martin and the other in St. Barts.

Large ocean swells continued to affect parts of the Virgin Islands, the northern coasts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and parts of the Bahamas.

The last major hurricane to strike Bermuda was Fabian in 2003, and the last major hurricane to cross land in the Atlantic Basin was Hurricane Sandy in 2012, a Category 3 storm that hit Cuba.

first published:October 16, 2014, 08:04 IST