Hurricane Igor approached Bermuda on Saturday packing powerful winds and heavy rains as the island’s premier warned residents to prepare for “one of the worst hurricanes to ever threaten our shores.”
Squalls were spreading across the British overseas territory as the centre of the category-two storm moved to within 460km of the tiny island en route to what local forecasters called a “direct hit” on the wealthy hub for the global insurance industry.
The US National Hurricane Centre forecast that Igor’s centre would pass over or near the island late on Sunday or early on Monday, but that conditions would deteriorate on Saturday night, with hurricane conditions expected as early as Sunday afternoon.
Igor was “expected to remain a dangerous hurricane” as it approached Bermuda, the Miami-based hurricane centre said in its 11pm (3am GMT on Sunday) advisory. It predicted total rainfall accumulations of 15 to 22cm over Bermuda and that the storm could produce significant coastal flooding and large, destructive waves, particularly along the southern coast.
Bermuda Premier Ewart Brown said people were frightened as the storm approached.
“Today we stand on the eve of the arrival of one of the worst hurricanes to ever threaten our shores,” Brown told a news conference. “Our country and our people have throughout our history rarely faced the full fury of a storm of this magnitude. And as a people, we will continue to pray that once again we will be spared.”
Most stores and restaurants in the capital, Hamilton, were boarded up and many residents were buying up supplies like gas, batteries, food and candles.
“The shutters are up, I’ve put tape across the windows and I’ve got a lot of buckets ready,” said Eddie DeSilva, a 64-year-old cleaner.
Bermuda’s buildings are some of the best-constructed in the world, weather forecasters and analysts say, which could help mitigate any storm damage.
Igor had sustained winds of 160km/h, with hurricane-force winds extending out for 150km, the hurricane centre said.
The Bermuda government has warned residents to prepare for a possible impact similar to the one they experienced in the 2003 Hurricane Fabian, which killed four people and caused millions of dollars of damage.
Authorities closed the island’s international airport and were monitoring wind gusts to determine whether to a close off a causeway linking it to the rest of Bermuda.
Joe Bastardi, a hurricane expert with the private US forecaster AccuWeather, said Bermuda should be prepared for a “several-day siege of damaging winds and waves”.
East of Igor, Tropical Storm Julia posed no threat to land and its 85km/h winds were expected to weaken over the next two days.
In Mexico, the remnants of Hurricane Karl, now a tropical depression, dissipated over the mountains of southern Mexico. Emergency workers reported at least eight people killed by the storm in three states.
The port city of Veracruz was cut off by floodwaters from the rest of hard-hit coastal Veracruz state. Damage to the city was minimal but large sections remained without power. Nearby villages in low-lying areas remained flooded, with hundreds of people evacuated to government shelters.
Karl appeared to have spared Mexican oil operations from major damage after sweeping through the Bay of Campeche, where Mexico produces more than two-thirds of its 2,55-million barrels per day of crude output. – Reuters