Bermuda weathers Florence well - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Bermuda weathers Florence well

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) -- Hurricane Florence blew out windows, peeled away several roofs and knocked out power to thousands in Bermuda on Monday but spared the wealthy British island chain massive damage as it skirted past.

Authorities reported a few minor injuries but no deaths from the storm. Tourists remained sheltered inside resort hotels, and officials urged all islanders to stay at home until the second hurricane of the Atlantic season no longer posed a danger.

However, the cleanup was already beginning late Monday. The runway of Bermuda's international airport was being cleared of debris and was expected to resume service Tuesday along with ferry and bus service. A causeway linking the main island with St. George's parish was already reopened.

Crews with the territory's electric company were also working to restore damaged power lines after Florence knocked out electricity to at least 23,000 homes and businesses during the day. About 5,000 of those customers had their power back by Monday evening, the utility said.

The government discontinued its tropical storm warning late Monday.

At 5 a.m. ET, Florence, a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 75 mph (120 km/h), was about 365 miles (585 kilometers) north-northeast of Bermuda.

It was traveling to the northeast at 20 mph (32 km/h) and was not expected to threaten the U.S., forecasters said.

The storm caused high surf and strong rip currents along parts of the eastern U.S. coast, about 640 miles west of Bermuda.

Florence was expected to weaken as wind shear increases and ocean temperatures cool, forecasters said. The storm should pass close to or over Newfoundland later in the week.

Although tourists took shelter from the storm in Bermuda, some were relatively unfazed since the territory enforces strict building codes to withstand rough weather. Homes must be built with walls at least 8 inches thick and be able to withstand 150 mph wind gusts. Many power and phone lines are underground.

Rowena Smith, an employee at The Reefs, a cliffside resort on the vulnerable south shore, said about 50 guests checked out Saturday but more than 80 stayed to ride out the storm. "They're in high spirits. We have a lot of repeaters in house, and they're having fun," Smith said.

At the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, the hotel distributed a disaster plan which included provisions for evacuation. Other hotels, playing up Bermuda's vaunted ability to withstand a fierce storm, planned "hurricane parties" for their remaining guests in the honeymoon and tax haven.

Though no Bermudians were reported killed in the storm, officials at the Bermuda Zoo said two pink flamingos died after being struck by broken tree branches.

Bermuda International Airport was closed late Saturday and all ferry and bus services were halted in preparation for the storm. Public schools and government offices were closed Monday.

Authorities kept a part-time regiment on call to help respond to the hurricane at strategic points, including the causeway linking the main island with St. George's parish. Part of the causeway, which was closed to traffic Sunday night, was swept away during Hurricane Fabian in 2003.

That storm -- the strongest to hit the territory in 50 years -- killed four people, tore the roofs off several homes and left many of the territory's famed golf courses in ruins.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Gordon formed in the Atlantic northeast of the Leeward Islands and was expected to head into open waters east of Bermuda, forecasters said.

Gordon's top sustained winds strengthened to about 60 mph (95 km/h). It was expected to become a hurricane, with sustained winds of 74 mph (119 km/h) or stronger, as early as Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the seventh named storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season was centered about 445 miles (715 kilometers) north-northeast of the Leeward Islands and moving northwest near 8 mph (13 km/h), forecasters said. It was expected to turn toward the north-northwest during the course of the day, keeping it away from Bermuda.

Gordon developed from a tropical depression that formed late Sunday. It was much smaller in size than Florence and was expected to remain over open water away from Bermuda, forecasters said.

"At this point it looks like it will recurve out into the Atlantic," said Jamie Rhome, hurricane specialist. "However, people should be reminded that we are at the peak of hurricane season, and they should be updated on hurricane supplies and have a hurricane plan."

The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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