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Island braced for direct hit

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Large swells form off Lagoon Drive as Hurricane Nicole approaches (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Bermuda is facing a direct hit from a mega storm now closing in with winds of 95 knots (108mph) and gusts as high as 110 knots (126mph).

Hurricane Nicole was upgraded to a Category 2 storm yesterday afternoon and, according to the Bermuda Weather Service, will unleash its full fury at around 1pm tomorrow.

“Nicole is a serious threat to Bermuda, and we cannot afford to have complacency with this storm,” said Senator Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security.

“I cannot emphasise enough the critical importance of residents securing their homes and completing their preparations well in advance of this storm.”

The Causeway will shut at 11pm today and will not reopen until it is considered safe to cross; schools will close from noon today until Monday; Government offices will shut at 3pm today; and as always the Regiment will be on hand to deal with emergencies.

In addition to the fierce winds, the storm could dump several inches of rain.

The storm’s slow movement could mean Bermuda will suffer 26 hours of tropical storm weather, with hurricane force winds for nine hours.

A number of airlines have cancelled their flights into the island, and ferry and bus services will be suspended.

Scores of businesses and shops have announced that they will close early today and will stay shut until at least Friday. After another Emergency Measures Organisation meeting yesterday, Mr Baron again emphasised the severity of the storm, urging residents to secure their homes and ensure seniors and vulnerable people in their areas are prepared.

“I want to stress that it is important residents take all necessary precautions,” he said. “Please stay indoors during the storm. That means no kite surfing and no swimming in our South Shore waters.

“Conditions are just too dangerous, and we cannot risk the safety of our emergency personnel. I want to encourage Bermudians to stay and band together in unity as we are known to do.”

Mr Baron announced at a press conference:

• Public schools would close at noon today and remain closed through Thursday and Friday.

• The Causeway would close at 11pm tonight, and is expected to remain closed for around 18 hours.

• There would be no ferry service today, and no bus service after 8pm today.

• The Emergency Shelter at CedarBridge Academy would open at 4pm today.

• The Emergency Broadcast Service on 100.1FM would begin to broadcast at 10pm this evening, providing updates every half-hour.

• Government offices would close at 3pm today and remain closed on Thursday.

• The Lamb-Foggo Urgent Care Centre in St David’s would remain open.

• The Royal Bermuda Regiment would be deployed to various spots this evening.

The BWS forecasts that the storm will pass within 25 nautical miles of the island — considered a direct hit.

Providing an expected timeline for the storm, Kimberly Zuill, director of the weather service, said that tropical storm force winds would begin to affect the marine area starting around 8pm today, with 50 knot winds beginning at around 3am tomorrow. Hurricane force winds are expected to start at around 6am and last for nine hours.

“High tides occur at 6.50am, this is prior to the closest point of approach and it will be in the worst quadrant of the hurricane,” she said. “Therefore, expect low-lying areas to experience flooding and inundation.”

“The highest sustained winds forecast for the system at the moment is 95 knots gusting to 110 knots. Please expect if you are elevated and exposed to have higher conditions than this, particularly in areas where you have funnelling of the winds. Knowing your exposure will help you finish your preparations.”

Michael DeSilva, Commissioner of Police, noted the island had experienced multiple storms in recent years, saying: “Bermuda has had a lot of practice preparing for hurricanes, hunkering down during hurricanes and then cleaning up after.

“The concerning two things in this particular one is the length of time — 26 hours of storm activity — which presents some challenges for people who want to leave their homes.

“The other thing is the fact that it will end sometime on Thursday afternoon when it is daylight. When you combine those two things, it can be problematic for emergency services. When people feel a sense that it is calming down, they are drawn outdoors in the middle of emergency services trying to make sure the roads are clear.

“The number one priority for the police and the Royal Bermuda Regiment once the hurricane has subsided is to go out and make sure there’s at least one clear road from east to west. That’s to make sure fire appliances and ambulances can get where they need to for emergencies. It is essential that we don’t have the public getting in the way of that activity.”

The incoming storm has already caused three cruise ships to cancel their calls in Bermuda, while the Bermuda Islander has delayed its arrival into Hamilton from Thursday to Friday. The Bermuda Chamber of Commerce urged its members to take all necessary precautions to protect their people and premises.

“We will be posting to our social media relevant information on business opening hours immediately after the storm as well as updates on the weather and other pertinent information,” the chamber said. “We look forward to a safe return to work, post storm.”

At 3pm today, Nicole was 234 nautical miles south-southwest of the island, with sustained winds between 85 and 105 knots (97mph and 120mph). The storm was moving north, directly towards Bermuda, at 6 knots.

Further updates will also be reported on The Royal Gazette website.

Preparing for storm: from front, twins, Emyr and Esai Bean, 2, Sanaj Signor, 3, and Neale Thompson, 4, help with Hurricane Nicole preparations at the First Church of God (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Large swells forming at Lagoon Drive, as Hurricane Nicole Approaches (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)