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Hurricane Gonzalo crosses over Bermuda, giving island second pummeling by storm this week


October 18, 2014   by Josh Ball And Danica Coto - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


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HAMILTON, Bermuda – Hurricane Gonzalo crushed trees, flattened power lines and damaged Bermuda’s main hospital during an hours-long battering, but the tiny, wealthy British territory suffered no deaths.

The storm’s centre crossed over Bermuda Friday night and its winds and heavy surf continued to whip at the island Saturday morning as Gonzalo quickly moved northward over the Atlantic on a track that could take it just off the shore of Newfoundland in Canada.

This image provided by NASA shows Hurricane Gonzalo taken from the International Space Station by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst as it moves toward Bermuda on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Hurricane Gonzalo roared toward Bermuda as a powerful Category 3 storm on Friday. (AP Photo/Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA)”This was a dangerous hurricane, but Bermuda today is dealing with property damage, blocked roads and a loss of electricity, all things that can be replaced and restored,” said Premier Michael Dunkley. ”Thankfully, there has been no loss of life.”

He said the U.S., the United Kingdom and others have offered assistance.

The hospital, which suffered a damaged roof, was still operating, and bulldozers were clearing trees from roads as crews worked to restore power to some 28,000 homes.

A causeway that links the eastern end of Bermuda to the main part of the island remained closed as the government awaited an inspection by structural engineers.

Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva said many roads were impassible and urged people to stay home, warning on the island’s Emergency Broadcast Station that motorists would be turned back.

”Unless it’s a life or death emergency – checking on your boat is not an emergency – we won’t let you pass,” he said.

Gonzalo approached Bermuda as a Category 3 storm then weakened to Category 2 strength just before coming ashore with sustained winds of 110 mph (175 kph).

Some Bermudians woke up to toppled concrete walls, uprooted palm trees and boats run aground. The Royal Gazette newspaper reported that part of the roof of the island’s legislature, the House of Assembly, was ripped off.

Flooding was the main concern on Bermuda, which has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world and is known for strict building codes meant to ensure homes can withstand sustained winds of at least 110 mph (177 kph).

The last major hurricane to strike Bermuda was Fabian in September 2003. That Category 3 storm killed four people and caused more than $100 million in damage.

The island was still recovering from last weekend’s blast from Tropical Storm Fay, which also damaged homes and toppled power lines.

”To be struck twice by two different cyclones is unusual, to say the least,” said Max Mayfield, a former director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

A 436-foot (133-meter) frigate of Britain’s Royal Navy with a crew of some 180 sailors was expected to arrive Sunday in Bermuda to help with post-storm recovery efforts.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Gonzalo weakened as it moved away from Bermuda on a track that would take it past Newfoundland and then across the Atlantic to Britain and Ireland.

Canadian Hurricane Center officials said the storm isn’t expected to be a hurricane as it nears Canadian waters, but there was 30 per cent chance it would make landfall as a post-tropical storm overnight Saturday. Officials said there could be some flooding if it arrives at high tide early Sunday.

Across the Atlantic, Britain’s Met Office issued an alert for strong winds and heavy rain expected Tuesday from the remains of Gonzalo. It warned of the potential for significant disruption of travel and difficult driving conditions.

Early Saturday, Gonzalo was located 355 miles (575 kilometres) north-northeast of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph) as it travelled north-northeast at 25 mph (41 kph).

The storm earlier claimed one life in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten and the hurricane centre said it could still whip up dangerous surf on portions of the U.S. coast.

In the Pacific, recently formed Tropical Storm Trudy was centred over land about 75 miles (120 kilometres east-northeast of Acapulco, and it was dumping heavy rains. Maximum sustained winds were 45 mph (75 kph), the hurricane centre said.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Ana was carving a path south of Hawaii, producing high waves, strong winds and heavy rains that prompted a flood advisory. The centre of the storm was about 170 miles (274 kilometres) southwest of the Big Island and about 225 miles (362 kilometres) from Honolulu, the National Weather Service said.

There was little chance for hurricane conditions on the islands, but a tropical storm watch remained in effect throughout the archipelago and winds were expected to reach nearly 40 mph, forecasters said. It had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.