Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Hurricane nears Bermuda

AGENCIES , HAMILTON

Hurricane Florence advanced toward Bermuda as residents made last-minute preparations for the storm that was expected to pass near the island yesterday.

After gaining hurricane status on Sunday, the storm's maximum sustained winds reached 150kph, easily making it a Category 1 hurricane, the least powerful on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasters predicted Florence could intensify to Category 2 as it passed Bermuda yesterday morning. Category 2 hurricanes have top sustained winds of at least 154 kph and are capable of moderate damage.

At 2am, Florence, the second hurricane of the this year's Atlantic season, was 175km southwest of Bermuda and moving north at 19kph.

The storm's center was likely to pass near or just west of the British territory in the Atlantic yesterday morning.

"Large and dangerous battering waves are likely along the coast of Bermuda as Florence passes near the island," an advisory issued by the hurricane center said.

Some hotels prepared "hurricane parties" for tourists and officials urged islanders to take shelter at home, saying the storm could test the resilience of the wealthy British enclave.

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 Canada, 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 13cm to 20cm of rain as Florence passes, forecasters said. Its South Shore beaches were already taking a severe pounding.

Government leaders called up 200 troops from 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 and international finance center were placed on standby.

Tourists had been issued emergency instructions, Police Commissioner Roseanda Young said. Guests at one low-lying hotel left for 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 did about US$500 million damage.

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