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Bermuda braces for storm to become hurricane

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published September 10, 2006


HAMILTON, Bermuda - Residents of Bermuda installed storm shutters and hauled their yachts onto beaches in preparation for Tropical Storm Florence, which intensified Saturday and was expected to become a hurricane as it approaches the island.

Florence, which could become a hurricane today as it moves over the open Atlantic, was expected to reach the tiny British territory Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. But it was too early to tell whether it will make a direct hit.

"What's important is there's a hurricane that's moving very near and possibly over Bermuda so those people need to be making arrangements to protect life and property," said Jamie Rhome, a hurricane specialist at the center.

Bermuda issued a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning, and the government urged its 65,000 residents to take precautions.

"The public is encouraged to stock up on normal hurricane supplies and to secure their homes, lawn furniture and any other loose items that could be affected by high winds," said Derrick Burgess, minister of public safety.

In boatyards and marinas in Bermuda - a wealthy island chain 640 miles east of the U.S. coast - boat owners dragged their yachts onto beaches or secured their moorings.

At the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, the hotel distributed a disaster plan - which included provisions for evacuation - and told guests that patio furniture would be removed from their rooms.

Roy Riggio, a 72-year-old volunteer counselor with Medicare from New Canaan, Conn., said he and his wife, Barbara, arrived in Bermuda on Friday.

As other guests at the Fairmont were leaving, Riggio said he didn't believe the hurricane would deter him and his wife, and he wanted a "window seat" at the hotel's restaurant tonight to watch the storm.

The island's only airport, Bermuda International Airport, was to close Saturday night and was not expected to reopen until late Tuesday at the earliest, said general manager Aaron Adderley. Flights from New York and Miami scheduled to arrive late Saturday were canceled.

Adderley said staff members were securing the airport and terminal building, boarding them up and laying sand bags because the site is located next to the ocean.

The storm was expected to veer away from the United States as it turns north toward Bermuda, but forecasters said its large size could also create high surf and rip currents along parts of the eastern U.S. coast.

Large ocean swells were affecting Bermuda and the northern coasts of the Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the hurricane center said.

The storm's sustained winds were near 65 mph Saturday. Tropical storm force winds extended up to 260 miles from Florence's center Saturday night.

At 11 p.m. Saturday, the storm was centered about 395 miles south of Bermuda, where it had started to rain. Florence was moving northwest at about 13 mph.

Bermuda requires newly built houses to withstand sustained winds of 110 mph. It also has a sturdy infrastructure with many of its power and phone lines underground.

Hurricane Fabian killed four people when it struck in 2003 as the strongest storm to hit Bermuda in 50 years. Fabian, a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds, tore the roofs off several homes and left many of Bermuda's famed golf courses in ruins.

Florence follows on the heels of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which was briefly the season's first hurricane before weakening and drenching the U.S. East Coast last week. The storm was blamed for nine deaths in the United States and two in Haiti.

Florence, the sixth named storm of the hurricane season, developed in the peak of hurricane season over warm Atlantic water, the source of energy for storm development this time of year. Although those waters are warm enough to spur storm intensification, forecasters said they are not as warm as last year's storm season, which had a record 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, including Katrina.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season has not been as rough as initially feared. The National Hurricane Center lowered its forecast in August to between 12 and 15 named storms and seven to nine hurricanes.

[Last modified September 10, 2006, 00:42:58]


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