Hurricane Florence bashes Bermuda

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 11 Sep 2006
HAMILTON, Bermuda, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Hurricane Florence bashed Bermuda on Monday with pounding surf and powerful winds that knocked out power to about 25,000 homes and businesses on the mid-Atlantic British island.

Wind gusts of 100 miles per hour (160 kph) brought down electricity lines, blew out windows and stripped trees of their branches but the government said there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

The government dropped a hurricane warning after the second hurricane of the 2006 Atlantic season surged past the island.

Bermuda, a wealthy holiday destination and international financial center that is home to about 65,000 people, called up 200 troops and placed 250 more on standby for possible deployment after the storm.

Hurricane Fabian, the strongest storm to hit Bermuda in 50 years, killed four people and did about $500 million damage in 2003.

"Initial assessments do not indicate the extent of damage we experienced with Hurricane Fabian. Therefore we estimate total restoration to take days, not weeks," said Linda Smith-Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Bermuda Electric Light Company.

The island's tourist resorts appeared to have fared well, although Florence tore roofs off the Surf Side Beach Club in Warwick Parish.

Neighbor Stan Francis, a 65-year-old taxi driver, was clearing debris from his garden when a section of a balcony roof landed near him. "I was a split second from getting hit. I feel a very lucky man," he said.

Police were investigating three burglaries during the storm, and said patrols were on the lookout for looters. Two teenagers and an adult were arrested in connection with one of the robberies.

At 5 p.m. (2100 GMT), the center of the hurricane was about 145 miles (233 km) north of Bermuda and moving north-northeast at 16 mph (26 kph). The closest the powerful core of the storm got to Bermuda was about 50 miles (80 km) to the west.

Florence's sustained winds were about 90 mph (145 kph), and a wind gust was measured at 111 mph (179 kph) at an elevated observation post on the island, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane was forecast to stay away from the North American mainland, but created heavy surf along parts of the eastern United States and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

Tropical Storm Gordon, the seventh of the season, formed on Monday about 425 miles (685 km) northwest of the Leeward Islands. With 45 mph (72 kph) winds, it was headed in the general direction of Bermuda but was expected to pass the island far to the east.

The six-month hurricane season that began on June 1 has produced only two hurricanes so far. Tropical Storm Ernesto briefly reached hurricane strength near Haiti last month but weakened before drenching the U.S. East Coast.

The 2005 season broke records with 28 tropical storms, of which 15 became hurricanes. The worst was Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, killed 1,500 people along the U.S. Gulf Coast and caused $80 billion in damage.

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