Bermuda Braces for Powerful Hurricane Fabian
Author: Stephen Breen
Forecasters also raised storm warnings for parts of Florida as a tropical weather system that could become Tropical Storm Henri headed for the Sunshine State.
In Bermuda, residents hit the hardware stores, supermarkets and gas stations to stock up for what emergency officials said could be the strongest hurricane ever to hit the British colony of 62,000 people. Fabian was expected to be near Bermuda by Friday evening.
Emergency managers told residents on the exposed south shore to abandon or board up their homes against possible 30-foot waves.
There was a hurricane warning in effect for Bermuda, a thriving offshore financial center and tourist playground. Residents were told to expect hurricane conditions within 24 hours. Local officials said the eye of the hurricane, around which the strongest winds are felt, could pass within 30 miles of the island.
"It looks like the center will be very near or possibly directly over the island," said Michelle Mainelli, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Long lines were reported at supermarkets, where bottled water, food and batteries were flying off the shelves. Gas stations were crammed with motorists fueling their cars.
"It's a madhouse. There were people lined up outside the store half an hour before we opened this morning waiting to stock up on supplies," said Susan Wilson, president of Masters Hardware in the capital, Hamilton.
Several cruise ships expected to stay in port at Hamilton until Friday headed out early to outrun the storm.
Emergency managers were to meet later on Thursday to decide whether to close schools and public transportation. Residents were urged to take in garden furniture and surfers and swimmers were cautioned to stay out of the water.
At 11 a.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Fabian was 500 miles south of Bermuda at latitude 25.2 north and longitude 64 west, the hurricane center said. The storm was moving north-northwest at 12 mph and could pass very close to Bermuda by Friday evening, forecasters said. Forecasters said there was a chance the storm could weaken slightly as it drew closer to Bermuda, but residents should be prepared for a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 111-130 mph.
Such storms usually carry storm tides of 9-12 feet above normal, can do structural damage to small residences and may destroy small coastal buildings.
"We're urging all residents and tourists to finish their hurricane preparations as soon as possible," Mainelli said.
Parts of Florida's Gulf Coast were under a tropical storm warning as the swirling mass of thunderstorms that could become Henri headed east. The warning area stretched from Englewood to Indian Pass.
At 11 a.m. EDT, it was centered 175 miles southwest of Apalachicola, at latitude 27.9 north and longitude 87.1 west. It was drifting northeast and was expected to pick up speed. Maximum winds were near 35 mph.