Category 4 Hurricane Gonzalo aims for Bermuda

Josh Ball
Associated Press

Hamilton, Bermuda — Hurricane Gonzalo barreled toward Bermuda as a powerful Category 4 storm Wednesday, prompting people in the tiny archipelago to shore-up homes and rush to clear trees and power lines knocked down days earlier by a tropical storm.

Gonzalo had top sustained winds of 130 mph and was about 640 miles south-southwest of Bermuda. It was moving northwest at 12 mph and was expected to be near Bermuda early Friday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

A hurricane watch was issued and would likely become a warning by late Wednesday, Dennis Feltgen, a National Hurricane Center meteorologist, said by phone.

Feltgen 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.

Hurricane Gonzalo approached 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 200 members of the Bermuda Regiment to help with cleanup efforts on the island of roughly 65,000 people.

Bermuda, some 850 miles 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 Thursday to allow people to prepare for the hurricane. Bermuda’s schools reopened on 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.