Bertha loses strength

A Tropical Storm warning is in effect with Bertha expected to clip the Island from the early hours of this morning.

The Category One hurricane was downgraded to a Tropical Storm early yesterday but Islanders should brace themselves for heavy rain and sustained winds of 50 knots (55 mph) and gusts in excess of 60 (70 mph) from 1 p.m. until almost midnight.

The eye of the storm is forecast to pass within 47 nautical miles (54 miles) east of Bermuda at its closest point of approach at around 5 p.m.

  • <B>An early morning jogger</B> runs on Horseshoe Bay Beach. Warning signs fringe the South Shore advising of rip tides as Bertha approaches the Island. The closest point of approach is expected to be 5 p.m. where it will be some 54 miles to the east of the Island.

    An early morning jogger runs on Horseshoe Bay Beach. Warning signs fringe the South Shore advising of rip tides as Bertha approaches the Island. The closest point of approach is expected to be 5 p.m. where it will be some 54 miles to the east of the Island.


A Tropical Storm warning is in effect with Bertha expected to clip the Island from the early hours of this morning.

The Category One hurricane was downgraded to a Tropical Storm early yesterday but Islanders should brace themselves for heavy rain and sustained winds of 50 knots (55 mph) and gusts in excess of 60 (70 mph) from 1 p.m. until almost midnight.

The eye of the storm is forecast to pass within 47 nautical miles (54 miles) east of Bermuda at its closest point of approach at around 5 p.m.

But sustained winds of more than 34 knots (39 mph) were expected to lash the Island from 5 a.m. this morning.

Yesterday some airlines decided to take no chances, with jetBlue, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines pulling their Bermuda departures.

JetBlue cancelled today's Boston and New York service, while American Airlines flew out passengers on its Miami and New York departures ahead of schedule last night.

Delta Air Lines has scrapped today's Boston and Atlanta flights, and British Airways will decide this morning what action to take over this evening's Gatwick service.

As to whether the Causeway will close, the Island's Emergency Measures Organisation (EMO) will be monitoring the storm's progress and wind strength closely.

But the Department of Marine and Ports Services has already cancelled today's St. George's ferry service.

A Government spokeswoman said last night: "The Department will continue to monitor weather conditions over the course of tomorrow (Monday) to decide if other commuter services will be suspended."

The Island's beaches are also closed to swimming and water sports until further notice, with temporary barriers prohibiting public access along the South Shore altogether.

A Bermuda Police Service spokesman said: "Whilst the water may seem safe, there is a very strong undertow that may prove very dangerous for swimmers. Signs have been posted on most beaches that indicate the water at this time is off limits."

Bertha is the first official hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season and has so far proved unpredictable, both in terms of strength and direction.

The system formed south of the Cape Verde Islands, off western Africa, on July 3 and strengthened into a Category Three hurricane four days later, with winds of more than 120 mph.

On July 10, however, Bertha was downgraded to a Category One hurricane.

For the past few days, the storm has hovered in the Atlantic on a somewhat erratic course towards Bermuda.

Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the US National Hurricane Center in Miami, told The Royal Gazette last night: "It is not unusual for a tropical cyclone to linger.

"These storms do not move by themselves, but rather are steered by the weather systems surrounding them.

"If these weather systems are in balance, the tropical cyclone will stall or move very slowly, sometimes rather erratically, until the weather pattern changes. In the case of Bertha, that will not likely occur until later tonight or sometime on Monday."

James Dodgson, Bermuda Weather Service duty meteorologist, concurred that the storm was now moving into more predictable conditions.

"It is moving into an environment in the next few days which will make it more predictable," said Mr. Dodgson.

"Bertha is very slow moving at the moment due to slack winds in the atmosphere, but once it nudges up to us it will begin to pick up tempo.

"Winds high in the atmosphere will then steer it away from us in the next few days.

"There is a small risk it could pick up a little but we're not expecting a dramatic increase and for it to become a hurricane again. We are not talking more than five knots."

For a Tropical Storm to be upgraded to a Category One hurricane, sustained winds must reach 64 knots (74 mph).

Residents of Bermuda however, are being warned of large swells, high surf and rip currents.

A spokesman for the Department of Parks said last night: "As of 6 p.m. today, beach patrons along the South Shore have been advised by the Police and members of the Department of Parks that all South Shore beaches are closed to the general public until further notice.

"Temporary barriers have been placed at the main entrances of the beaches. High Surf warning signs remain posted at all of the beaches."

Lifeguard coverage was also suspended at Horseshoe Bay, John Smith's Bay, Clearwater Beach and Turtle Beach "until further notice".

Red flags will not be flown at the towers - indicating there are no lifeguards on duty.

Kimberley Zuill, deputy director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said tropical storm-force winds of more than 34 knots (39 mph) were forecast to buffet the Island from 5 a.m.

"We are going to have tropical storm-force winds from 5 a.m. until 1 p.m., which will then increase to sustained winds of 50 knots and gusts of 60 knots until around 11 p.m.," she said.

"It will then decrease but we will still have sustained winds above 34 knots until 6 a.m. on Tuesday."

The 300-mile wide tropical storm is forecast to veer north-east away from Bermuda this evening.

Bertha's outer bands are expected to precipitate between two and four inches of rain, most of which will fall this afternoon and evening.

The Tropical Storm Warning forecasts sustained winds between 34-63 knots out to 25 nautical miles (28 miles) off the coast of Bermuda.

Wendall Burchall, acting general manager of the Department of Airport Operations, advised air passengers to check with their airlines for possible cancellations and delays.

Mr. Burchall said last night: "The jetBlue flights for (Monday) have been cancelled.

The American Airlines flights would normally remain overnight but we are turning them around as soon as possible this evening and taking passengers out that were scheduled for tomorrow on a return leg to the US."

To monitor the tropical storm, log onto: www.weather.bm, or watch the local weather station on CableVision channel 4 or WOW channel 100.

For information on flights operating out of L.F. Wade International Airport log onto: www.bermudaairport.com

Contact the Hamilton Ferry Terminal on 295 4506 to inquire about commuter services. For further information on surf conditions and beach closures, telephone the Parks Department at 236 5902.

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