Hurricane Florence approaches Bermuda

Hurricane Florence advanced towards Bermuda as residents made last-minute preparations for the storm that was expected to pass by the island on Monday.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds eased slightly, to 130kph, but Florence remained a category one hurricane, the United States National Hurricane Centre said.

Forecasters had predicted Florence could intensify to category two as it passed Bermuda, but the centre’s latest advisory said “little change is forecast during the nest 24 hours”.

At 5am local time, Florence, the second hurricane of the 2006 Atlantic season, was 125km west-southwest of Bermuda and moving north at 19kph.

The storm’s centre was expected to pass just west of the British Atlantic territory on Monday morning.

“Large and dangerous battering waves are likely along the coast of Bermuda as Florence passes near the island,” the hurricane centre said.

The hurricane was expected to stay away from the North American mainland, but was creating risky surf along parts of the eastern US and the Canadian Maritime provinces, according to forecasters.

Florence’s approach prompted Bermuda’s government to issue a hurricane warning, telling the 35km-long island’s 63 000 residents they should rush to complete preparations.

Bermuda could experience 2m to 2,5m storm surges and 5cm5 to 10cm of rain as Florence passes, forecasters said.

Its South Shore beaches were already taking a severe pounding.

Government leaders called up 200 troops of the Bermuda Regiment and placed 250 more on standby for possible deployment after the storm. A shelter opened on Sunday, but most Bermudans were expected to weather Florence at home.

Hundreds of emergency service workers on the resort island, that is also an international finance centre, were on standby.

Tourists had been issued emergency plans, acting Police Commissioner Roseanda Young said. Guests at one low-lying hotel moved to another on higher ground.

Acting Premier Ewart Brown said Bermuda was no stranger to hurricanes after Hurricane Emily nearly 20 years ago and 2003’s Hurricane Fabian, which killed four and caused about $500-million damage.

“It is my genuine belief that, should we sustain serious damage in the wake of this storm, we will rally together once again to ensure that our island is up and running as swiftly as possible,” Brown said.—Reuters


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