Fabian: A blow-by-blow account

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It was at 5.55 p.m. on Friday that Hurricane Fabian raged at its most destructive, with winds of 150 miles per hour battering the Island.

That was the highest estimate Bermuda Weather Service could give, for an hour earlier their monitoring equipment at the Airport shorted as water surged eight feet above sea level and they were unable to record for two hours.


It was at 5.55 p.m. on Friday that Hurricane Fabian raged at its most destructive, with winds of 150 miles per hour battering the Island.

That was the highest estimate Bermuda Weather Service could give, for an hour earlier their monitoring equipment at the Airport shorted as water surged eight feet above sea level and they were unable to record for two hours.

Meteorologist Brian Kolts talked The Royal Gazette through the biggest storm to hit the Island in 50 years, and revealed the Weather staff believed the roof of their supposedly bomb-proof US military-made shelter would have been ripped off if the winds had picked up by just five more knots.

The nine-strong Weather team camped out in their concrete building next to the Airport control tower must have felt like the most vulnerable people in Bermuda as they monitored the hurricane approaching the Island from the south south-west and moving north.

"I came on at 8 a.m and we had already started to get tropical storm force winds (sustained winds of at least 34 knots/39 mph)," said Mr. Kolts yesterday.

"As the day progressed, we started to receive hurricane force winds (at least 64 knots/74 mph sustained) at about 2 p.m.

Shortly thereafter, the eye wall of the hurricane began to move onto the Island and we had the highest winds.

"It seemed to be about three hours that the eye wall of the storm was on the Island and it was a long period of time that we were getting extreme winds."

The eye of Fabian was 50 miles from north to south and 30 miles from east to west.

As the eye wall moved over the Island, Bermuda was in the north-east quadrant, which is traditionally the strongest part of the hurricane.

"The eye didn't perfectly pass over the island, it just skirted it slightly to the west, which is why we were in the eye of the wind for such a long time," continued Mr. Kolts.

"There were reports of the winds lightening at the west end for a brief time so we were probably right on the border of the eye, but we never saw anything go calm (a traditional sign of being right under the eye).

"The eye wall is definitely where the harshest winds are, and we definitely had the highest speeds for three hours when we were on the eye wall.

"The storm continued to move north and at about 6.55 p.m., the eye was north of Bermuda and the winds switched direction to come from a westerly direction on the comparatively weaker side of the storm."

By 11.55 p.m. on Friday, the hurricane winds had officially passed over the Island, with sustained speeds of 40 knots (46 mph) gusting to 52 knots (60 mph) hitting the Island.

From then on, there was a steady decline in wind speed as Fabian blew out into the Atlantic northwards, and by 4.55 a.m. the Weather Centre was barely registering tropical storm conditions, with sustained winds at 36 knots (41 mph).

Mr. Kolts revealed the dramatic scenes at the Weather Centre, when the shutters blew off at the height of the hurricane and staff broke up tables to try to board up the windows.

Then, in another terrifying moment, three people from the Airport fire station were forced to abandon their office when the roof blew off and get into a road sweeper.

But the short journey to the Weather Centre was hazardous because of the many detours they had to take due to the debris and trees scattered around the Airport.

I was holding the door open and it was hard to hold it open. As soon as we saw one fire fighter we were relieved when we got them in and they looked so happy to be there," said Mr. Kolts.

"It was quite busy as we were monitoring the storm as best we could using the equipment that we still had.

"After a while, we started to be concerned about the building holding together.

"We lost the shutters off the windows and we were ripping apart tables to board up the windows and putting anything we could on the windows."

We got a little worried when we lost the shutters and we were watching the ceiling breeze up and down. We were a little nervous and the general consensus was that five more knots and we would not have had the roof.

"We were a little nervous, but we were keeping busy working and boarding up the windows, so there wasn't much time to think about it.

"I would definitely concur that in the last 50 years, this was the worst storm. Fortunately with the technology we now have, we were better prepared for it with more warning."

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