Thursday, September 16th, 2010...11:26 am

Bermuda prepares for possible direct hit from Hurricane Igor

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HAMILTON, Bermuda, CMC – Bermuda residents braced themselves for a possible direct hit at the weekend from powerful Hurricane Igor which authorities have likened to a storm seven years ago that killed four people.

Even though Igor is more than 800 miles away, a small craft warning was issued in Bermuda on Thursday morning, with southeasterly swells building and seas increasing inside the reef two to three feet.

Government has said Bermuda has not seen a hurricane as severe as Igor since Hurricane Fabian, while NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has called it “a monstrous storm” and the Bermuda Weather Service has said people should prepare for a “virtual direct hit”. On September 4, 2003 Fabian hit Bermuda directly, sweeping four people to their deaths as they tried to cross the Causeway, a low-lying bridge linking the east end, including the international airport, to the rest of the island, and causing millions of dollars worth of damage.

 A number of hotels were forced to close for several months.

 At 6 a.m. local time, Igor was 830 nautical miles southeast of Bermuda and was classified as a Category 4 storm, packing sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. It was moving west-northwest at six knots.

Although the hurricane is expected to weaken slightly before it reaches the Bermuda area over the weekend, it is still projected to be a Category 2 storm packing winds of 110 mph. Virtually all projections have the hurricane passing close to or over Bermuda.

The island’s Emergency Measures Organisation met on Wednesday and urged residents to prepare for a serious hit. A spokeswoman said: “The island can expect tropical storm force winds sometime around midnight Saturday and even worse conditions late Sunday around midnight when the current forecast is for a direct hit.

 “Residents are advised to take the warnings seriously as the island has not experienced such an intense storm since Hurricane Fabian hit Bermuda in 2003.” Bermuda Weather Service meteorologist Ken Smith said Bermuda should be prepared for a “virtually a direct hit”, although he added that there was no way to predict if the eye of the storm would pass over the Island at the moment.

Home Affairs Minister David Burch told residents: “You should be getting prepared now,  if you wait until Saturday evening, it will be too late.” Premier Ewart Brown has cancelled a planned trip to the United States to sign an agreement between government and Howard University for psychiatric services on the island. “Our government is monitoring Hurricane Igor closely and intends to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of our people,” he said.

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