West End bears the brunt of Joaquin
The Island’s first hurricane of the season has been ranked a lucky miss, with relatively few reports of property damage taken by insurers.
Joaquin had moved 185 miles north of the Island by noon yesterday, leaving Bermuda battered but spared the devastation suffered in the Bahamas when it was a Category 4 storm.
It was also milder than either Hurricanes Fay or Gonzalo, which struck a year ago — Belco reported “considerably less” damage, and crews were hard at work on the remaining blackouts.
The day began with more than 15,000 homes without power. There were 2,089 customers still in the dark at 9pm last night.
Joaquin was a Category 3 storm as it approached on Sunday, falling to Category 2 as it passed 85 miles to the west at 9pm.
The Island weathered hurricane-force winds: 50 knots gusting to 60 knots (58mph to 69mph) were clocked at the airport, while the Bermuda Weather Service received reports of 80-knot winds gusting to 100 knots (92mph to 115mph) in elevated areas. Between five and six inches of rain fell. Tropical storm winds continued yesterday as the Category 1 storm headed away from the Island.
Roads were cleared of debris and public transport was gradually restored throughout yesterday. Buses are due to resume full service this morning.
The West End bore the brunt of Joaquin’s passing, with one casualty being Dockyard’s historic Commissioner’s House.
A year after its roof suffered extensive damage from Fay and Gonzalo, the last of the building’s old roof was torn away during the storm and a chimney was destroyed.
“It was another big blow to us when we were just getting back on our feet — it looks really bad, but we will rebuild,” said Elena Strong, the curator for the National Museum of Bermuda.
There was some water damage to the interior, but no exhibits or artefacts were damaged.
Meanwhile, the Causeway, which closed shortly before 8pm on Sunday, reopened to a single lane just before 10am yesterday.
Hurricane Joaquin forced two cruise ships to abandon their trips to Bermuda and put a significant dent in the Island’s container ship schedules.
Bill Hanbury, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said the Island had “proven the power of preparation once again in the face of a hurricane”.
“We’re getting the word out: the LF Wade International Airport is open, the Causeway is handling traffic once again and public buses and ferries have restarted operations on the main routes,” he said.
“We have checked in with most hotel properties and while some are operating temporarily on generator power, we have no reports of major damage.
“Our team is working with the Bermuda Hotel Association to get a handle on whether there is any notable volume of cancellations as a result of Hurricane Joaquin.”
This month is a busy one for tourism, he noted: the Argo Gold Cup begins this week, with the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series next week, and the Bermuda Tattoo and Nike Golf PGA of Canada Team Championship following afterwards.
Oracle Team USA in Dockyard said they came through the hurricane unscathed.
The storm also disrupted communications. Bryan Darby, the news editor at VSB, said the broadcaster’s station 1450AM was the only radio channel in operation with its storm watch programme at the height of the hurricane on Sunday evening.
“All of the FM stations were blown off the air, including our own 106FM, and the Government radio station at 101FM broke down three times when it had generator problems,” Mr Darby said.
VSB had been off the air when its broadcasting company, DeFontes, shut down last week — but storm watch was spared when backers stepped in.
Mr Darby said 106FM would be returning to the public airwaves “for the foreseeable future”.
The care of patients at both the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute and King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was uninterrupted, the Bermuda Hospitals Board reported.
Small leaks at both hospitals were taken care of swiftly by maintenance staff.
There were 65 patients treated in the Emergency Department, seven of whom arrived between midnight and 8am yesterday. The Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre treated four people between noon and midnight and four up until 8am yesterday.
Weathering the storm well again was the Settlers House, a replica of the rudimentary homes first built on the Island, along with historic Carter House.
As Joaquin headed slowly towards Europe, the Atlantic last night looked relatively clear.
The National Hurricane Centre showed a tropical wave around 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, but its chances of turning into a storm were ranked as low. The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends on November 30.
• For more photographs of the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin, see our image galleries at the bottom of our home page.