Island counts cost of Fay's fury

  • Hurricane Fay is pictured off the eastern coast of the United States in this October 12, 2014 NASA satellite handout image.

    Hurricane Fay is pictured off the eastern coast of the United States in this October 12, 2014 NASA satellite handout image.

  • Cleaning up: A soldier from Bermuda Regiment gets to work with a chainsaw on a tree that had fallen across Harbour Road  as the Island began to recover from Tropical Storm Fay. 

  (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

    Cleaning up: A soldier from Bermuda Regiment gets to work with a chainsaw on a tree that had fallen across Harbour Road as the Island began to recover from Tropical Storm Fay. (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

  • Mucking in: Residents across the Island got to work clearing debris. This picture was taken on Middle Road in Hamilton Parish

  (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

    Mucking in: Residents across the Island got to work clearing debris. This picture was taken on Middle Road in Hamilton Parish (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)


A tropical storm that felt like a hurricane

Tropical Storm Fay may have felt like a hurricane when it struck, but it remained a Tropical Storm throughout — and was still at TS status as it headed off from the Island, according to the Bermuda Weather Service.

A storm grows into a hurricane when only its high winds come at a sustained pace. Fay, conversely, delivered short bursts of ferocity.

However, Reuters last night reported that Fay attained Category 1 Hurricane status as it moved away into the Atlantic, with sustained blasts of 75mph. It was expected to weaken fast.

Meanwhile, a hurricane watch was called in the Caribbean for Tropical Storm Gonzalo, which formed about 200 miles east of the Leeward Islands.

Fay's classification came from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, with whom Bermudian forecasters work closely via phone before, during, and after any tropical cyclone affecting Bermuda.

“The closest point of approach of Fay happened slightly later and closer than the NHC predicted,” the spokeswoman said. “Exact numbers are not quite available from us at the moment.”

Asked if there had been tornados, she said: “It is difficult to have official tornado reports unless a video of a tornado was taken, as any tell tale damage signs would have been blown away in the winds. In heavier thunderstorms, especially when they are associated with a tropical storm, it would be possible for tornados and waterspouts to form. Also the lack of daylight would make spotting these features difficult.

“Tropical storm conditions include heavy rain and thunderstorms along with the possibility of hurricane force gusts (63 knots and higher) and tornadoes.

“We at Bermuda Weather Service always try to stress the unpredictable nature of the conditions associated with tropical storms.”

Bermuda is today counting the cost and cleaning up debris after a pummelling early morning impact from Tropic Storm Fay left nearly 28,000 homes without power.

There were no deaths, Premier Michael Dunkley said, but ten minor injuries were reported. As of 9.30pm, the lights were still out for 11,379 Belco customers.

The storm escalated sharply before sunrise yesterday, lashing the Island with gusts of up to 120mph clocked by the Bermuda Weather Service station at Commissioner's Point, Dockyard.

Early reports, which couldn't be confirmed because the equipment had malfunctioned, suggested a blast of 155mph as the eyewall of the storm passed the Island.

The worst of the winds struck between 7am and 8.20am.

Powerful enough to dislodge containers at the Hamilton docks, TS Fay downed trees and power lines all over Bermuda, flooding roads and leaving others clogged or impassable, while many buildings sustained roof damage.

At LF Wade International Airport, flights were cancelled and travellers stranded after the storm tore into the terminal roof, setting off extensive flooding as well as damaging radar.

Many schools, including all public schools, have opted to stay closed today.

Belco reported at least a dozen poles down.

The sparking and explosions of transformers were heard by many.

A spokesman for Bermuda Maritime Operations said there'd been eight confirmed cases of boats breaking their moorings — but said they were many more likely not yet reported.

Yesterday's clear-up operations by Public Works were bolstered by 100 Regiment soldiers, while residents came out in their droves at first light to cut away at fallen trees — or just to appraise the damage.

In fact, so many sightseers turned out that a number of advisories were issued, requesting the public to keep at home.

The cleanup began while the winds were still strong, and continued until well after dark. Belco crews were restoring power until midnight, and planned to resume at first light today.

Tarpaulins were given out at the Government quarry, while Standard Hardware and Masters opened for business.

Hamilton took a battering, with early morning flooding on Front Street.

At least one building on Reid Street sustained major damage, and the road was initially blocked by downed trees.

The Police Tattoo parade, already delayed by Fay, was again postponed, and sports events were called off.

After a seemingly quiet night, TS Fay surged with power well after it had gone beyond its predicted closest point of approach to the Island's east.

The sudden ferocity of the storm took many by surprise.

Spanish Point resident Charles Rebello reported that “all hell broke loose” at his Stovell Bay Road property around 5am.

“I've never seen anything like it in my 82 years,” Mr Rebello said.

“I thought it was going to be an ordinary wind, but it turned into much more. Trees were bent double. All kinds of trees were coming down. It's going to take me weeks to clean it up.”

Fay's onset prompted members of the Audubon Society, who were camping on Paget Island, to abandon their tents and take refuge in more solid structures.

The society's president Andrew Dobson said: “We had made the decision to move into the buildings on Paget Island well before the storm came.

“But it was a pretty wild night.

“The spray from the sea was so intense that it felt like torrential rain. It was certainly eventful but we all made it through the storm unscathed.

“The great thing for us to see was that once the storm had passed it was not long before all the birds returned, seemingly unfazed by what had just happened.”

British photographer Simon Rowley found himself helping to direct traffic on South Road in Devonshire as residents cleared fallen branches on Sunday morning.

Mr Rowley, who runs Fire Aid International in the UK, said: “I came to Bermuda for a few days holiday to see my brother, and the next minute I'm in the middle of this storm.

“On Saturday night I found myself trying to help him block out a window with an old painting and a huge gust sent us flying and the window smashed open.

“On Sunday morning I headed out and ended up helping to direct traffic on South Road. It's been an interesting few days.

“I had seen the devastating results of a hurricane in the UK before, but the damage I saw on the roads of Bermuda was pretty bad too.”

Island-wide cleanup operations saw the airport open once again by last night, and Government offices will be open this morning.

One of CableVision's satellite feeds was also affected by the storm.

“As a result of Tropical Storm Fay, one of our satellite feeds was damaged, which affected several channels. We are currently working to restore this,” CEO Terry Roberson said last night.

“In addition, our mainline technicians are assessing other damage across the island, although our fibre nodes are slowly coming back up. The headend and internal infrastructure were not damaged.”

Meanwhile, as Fay headed off into the Atlantic, the storm managed briefly to become the 2014 season's fifth named hurricane.

Other systems were brewing far to Bermuda's south — a reminder that the current season, though comparatively weak, is far from over.

Hurricane season officially ends on November 30.

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Published Oct 13, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 12, 2014 at 11:34 pm)

Island counts cost of Fay's fury

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