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Wind speeds to be expected for Hurricane Gonzalo, which will reach Bermuda later today, are as follows.
• Tropical Storm force winds of at least 39 miles per hour will begin in Bermuda’s marine area around 9 to 10pm, and on the Island at about 11pm to midnight today.
• Fifty knot winds, which are nearly 60 miles per hour, will begin in the marine area at about 5am tomorrow, and onshore by 8am.
• Hurricane force winds — sustained winds or frequent gusts of 74 miles per hour or greater — will start at 11am tomorrow in the marine area, and on land at 12 noon.
As for the cessation of winds, it was estimated by the Bermuda Weather Service that hurricane force winds will abate on land by 4pm tomorrow, and 6pm in the marine area.
• Fifty knot winds should cease by 6pm on land, and by 8pm tomorrow in the marine area.
• Tropical Storm force winds should have abated by 9pm, and by 11pm to midnight tomorrow in the Island’s marine area.
Gonzalo is a Category 3 hurricane, meaning that it will bring winds of 111 to 129mph on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The scale ranks hurricanes from one to five.
Bermuda can expect Hurricane Gonzalo to deliver a repeat of the severity dealt by 2003’s Hurricane Fabian, the Bermuda Weather Service declared yesterday after an Emergency Measures Organisation (EMO) meeting.
Tropical Storm force winds are due to begin around 9pm today as Gonzalo moves in from our southwest, heralding the onset of what BWS director Kimberley Zuill described as “a long duration system” that will lash the Island for about 27 straight hours.
“The path is similar to Fabian, the duration is similar to Fabian,” Ms Zuill said, flanked by Premier Michael Dunkley and Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva at a press conference in the Cabinet building.
“It’s already Category 4, but it will, as it approaches, downgrade to Category 3. We expect it to pass over Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane.”
Ms Zuill added: “The direction of the swells and the winds will be very reminiscent of Fabian. If your property was exposed and received damage during Fabian, you will want to prepare for that again.”
Accordingly, the Island was yesterday upgraded to a Hurricane Warning.
Surrounding weather systems will cause Gonzalo to “hook” toward Bermuda and build up strength, meaning the BWS is confident that its predictions will prove accurate when the storm nears the Island.
Tropical Storm force winds will commence this evening, she said, with 50 knot winds — almost 60mph — starting in Bermuda’s marine area by around 5am tomorrow. Hurricane force winds can be expected across the Island, especially in higher elevations and exposed areas, starting around noon and lasting until about 5pm.
Tropical Storm force winds will batter the Island until 11pm or midnight on Friday.
As a result, Mr Dunkley said Government offices and schools would be closed tomorrow — and an announcement on closing the Causeway would be made based on an assessment of weather conditions.
“All agencies have been hard at work clearing away the downed trees and other debris left after Tropical Storm Fay,” Mr Dunkley said.
“Now we must turn our attention to preparation for what is likely to be a more severe storm with greater impact.”
He called on residents to have all their preparation complete by this afternoon.
Cell phone companies have agreed to provide text message alerts on behalf of the EMO, he said, which will reiterate “key messages”.
“It is important that these advisories are taken seriously and preparations made in good time which will help to reduce property damage and the likelihood of injuries or loss of life,” Mr Dunkley said.
“We have weathered storms before and we are well versed in how to manage our homes and our property. However, I urge people to err on the side of safety every time.”
A shelter will be available starting at 3pm today in CedarBridge Academy, and shelters at the East and West ends will be decided after the Gonzalo’s impact.
Meanwhile, elements of the Bermuda Regiment, Fire Service, police and staffing for the Lamb-Foggo Urgent Care Centre will be in place at the East End.
Mr Dunkley strongly urged residents to resist the temptation to go out on the roads in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.
Aside from risks such as downed trees obscuring live wires, the unwanted extra traffic will hamper relief and clearance efforts.
Meanwhile, Mr DeSilva cautioned that the belief that the Causeway automatically closes when winds reach 50 knots wasn’t correct.
“It’s not applicable if the wind direction does not affect the Causeway,” the Commissioner pointed out, calling the 50-knots rule “a misnomer”.
Mr DeSilva also asked the public for patience in the event that the Causeway should be shut off to traffic.
“Given the size of the hurricane, we can assume there is a reasonable chance that the Causeway may close,” he added.
The exact timing of its closure would be of lesser concern, Mr DeSilva said, because by that point, it would already be too dangerous to be out on the roads.
However, the crossing must be carefully assessed by structural engineers before being reopened, meaning motorists could be frustrated when “the wind is abated and the sun is out, but the Causeway is still closed”.
The Island’s Emergency Broadcast Station, 100.1FM, will broadcast throughout the coming hurricane and continue with up-to-date information.
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