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Power out, trees fall as hurricane crosses Bermuda

Created: 10/18/2014 4:52 AM
By: JOSH BALL DANICA COTO

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Hurricane Gonzalo crushed trees, flattened power lines and damaged Bermuda's main hospital during an hours-long battering that was the second pummeling of the tiny British territory by a powerful storm in less than a week.

The storm's center crossed over Bermuda during Friday night and its winds and heavy surf whipped at the island early Saturday before Gonzalo quickly moved northward over the Atlantic, and away.

Forecasters warned of the danger of a storm surge of 10 feet (3 meters) that could cause widespread flooding, but a full assessment of damages likely wouldn't come until daylight. A hurricane warning was downgraded to a tropical storm warning.

Just under half of the island's 70,000 people were reported without power late Friday as the hurricane roared through, just days after Tropical Storm Fay damaged homes and also knocked down trees and power lines.

"To be struck twice by two different cyclones is unusual, to say the least," said Max Mayfield, a former director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Gonzalo approached Bermuda as a Category 3 storm then weakened a bit to Category 2 strength just before coming ashore with sustained winds of 110 mph (175 kph). The Bermuda Weather Service said hurricane-force winds would whip at the island into the early hours of Saturday, and tropical storm-force winds would continue until around sunrise.

Even during the storm, people reported destroyed porches and other damage. Part of the roof at Bermuda's main hospital was damaged and there was water damage in the new intensive care unit, police spokesman Dwayne Caines reported.

Flooding was the main concern on Bermuda, which has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world and is known for strict building codes that ensure homes can withstand sustained winds of at least 110 mph (177 kph).

"Water damage especially from the wave action will take the biggest toll," Mayfield said, noting that seas had risen to between 30 and 40 feet (9 and 12 meters).

The last major hurricane to strike Bermuda was Fabian in September 2003. That Category 3 storm killed three police officers and another person while causing more than $100 million in damage as it tore off roofs, pulverized trees and flooded famed golf courses. It also damaged the causeway linking the airport to most of Bermuda and left tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power.

Forecasters had anticipated that Gonzalo would follow Fabian's general path and cause similar damage to Bermuda, which lies about 850 miles (1,400 kilometers) off the U.S. East Coast..

Marlie Powell, the owner of Kingston House Bed & Breakfast, said in a phone interview that she was still recovering from Tropical Storm Fay when Gonzalo hit. She said Fay toppled two large trees on her property.

"We only had very few days to clean and get the trees out of our house," she said. "There's a lot of loose debris around the island already, which is not good."

A 436-foot (133-meter) frigate of Britain's Royal Navy with a crew of some 180 sailors was expected to arrive Sunday in Bermuda to help with post-storm recovery efforts.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm weakened some more as it moved away from Bermuda on a track that would take it past Newfoundland and across the Atlantic to Britain and Ireland. A tropical storm watch was issued for parts of southeastern Newfoundland.

Early Saturday, Gonzalo was located 190 miles (305 kilometers) north-northeast of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph) as it traveled north-northeast at 22 mph (35 kph).

Gonzalo swept by the eastern Caribbean earlier this week, claiming one life in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten. The hurricane center said the storm was generating large swells that could cause dangerous surf on portions of the U.S. southeast coast and those conditions would spread northward along the East Coast during Saturday.

In the Pacific, Ana strengthened into a hurricane as it swirled along a path likely to keep it west of Hawaii. It was expected to return to tropical storm strength late Saturday, when it was forecast to be about 85 to 90 miles (135 to 140 kilometers) southwest of the Big Island. It was forecast to bring 40 to 50 mph (65-80 kph) winds to Honolulu on Oahu and to the Big Island's Kau, Puna and South Kona districts.

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Associated Press writer Josh Ball reported this story in Hamilton, Bermuda, and Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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