Power Out for Thousands in Bermuda as Hurricane Moves Away

bermuda
Hurricane Gonzalo is seen over the Atlantic Ocean in this NASA image taken by astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station October 17, 2014. Alexander Gerst/NASA/Reuters

Power was out for nearly 30,000 customers in Bermuda, and many roads were impassable on Saturday after Hurricane Gonzalo pummeled the island with rain and howling winds through the night, but there were no reports of serious injuries or deaths.

The strongest storm to sweep the subtropical British territory in a decade whipped Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of around 110 mph (175 kph) as it made landfall Friday night, forecasters said, with hurricane force winds extending up to 60 miles (95 km) from its center.

By Saturday morning, Gonzalo was about 270 miles (435 km) north-northeast of the Atlantic island, with sustained winds of 100 miles per hour (160 kmh), the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

"The center of the eye went right over them," said Chris Landsea, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center. "It was a direct hit."

Damage from the storm was still being assessed but appeared widespread in Bermuda, a tourist destination and affluent insurance industry hub about 640 miles (1,030 km) off the coast of North Carolina.

Some buildings took a beating from the strong winds, and roads or sections of roads on the island were blocked by fallen trees and debris, Bermuda Police Service spokesman Robin Simmons said.

"We're very thankful that there has been no loss of life that we're aware of," he said.

Most of the island was without power Saturday morning, a Bermuda Electric Light Co. spokeswoman said. As the company worked to restore electricity to an estimated 28,850 customers out of 36,000 metered connections, it warned people not to approach downed wires when inspecting damage.

Instruments at the Bermuda Radio Maritime Operations Center in St. Georges and at the Bermuda International Airport were knocked offline by the storm and medical facilities had also been damaged, the hurricane center reported.

Gonzalo roared ashore just five days after Tropical Storm Fay hit, serving a one-two punch to the island, which lies about 640 miles (1,030 km) east of North Carolina.

Gonzalo peaked on Thursday as a Category 4 hurricane, the first in the Atlantic since 2011, before weakening. It was expected to continue weakening into the weekend as it moved quickly away fromBermuda and northward over cooler waters.

Though storm warnings were lifted for the island, large swells generated by Gonzalo were still affecting theU.S. East Coast, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands, causing life-threatening surf and rip currents, the hurricane center said.

Gonzalo is expected to pass just to the southeast of Newfoundland on Saturday night and early Sunday, hurricane center forecasters said, adding that Canadian officials had issued a tropical storm watch from Arnold's Cove to Chapel's Cove.

Jeff Masters, a hurricane expert with private forecaster Weather Underground, said Bermuda was among the best equipped places in the Atlantic for weathering such storms, in part because of strict building codes.

Hurricane Fabian, which pummeled the island in 2003 and caused $300 million in damage, was a Category 3 storm, he said.

Earlier, Gonzalo wrought destruction in the Caribbean, tearing off roofs in Antigua, and killing an elderly sailor and damaging some three dozen vessels in St. Maarten.