Nicole live: storm moves on, Causeway shut
Hurricane Nicole, now at Category 2, is continuing farther out into the Atlantic, with the National Hurricane Centre at 5pm putting its eye 114 nautical miles northeast of the island.
A hurricane warning was officially dropped at 6pm. A tropical storm warning remains until 9pm.
While the general consensus is that the impact is less than feared, Nicole leaves behind some serious damage to the island's infrastructure.
It caused walls and roads to collapse, tore roofs off buildings, ripped up trees, smashed boats against rocks and flooded numerous homes and roads.
Walls are said to be damaged along the Causeway, which is being assessed. The Causeway will remain closed until at least tomorrow, according to the Emergency Measures Organisation.
The EMO will announce the plan for government workers at 7pm, while schools will stay shut until Monday.
Residents are still urged to keep off the roads as recovery efforts get under way. The Royal Bermuda Regiment has begun its post-storm exercises.
Many power lines have been downed, and the EMO cautions for the public to assume that any fallen cable is live.
Flooding victims included Victor Scott Primary School, while Bailey's Bay Cricket Club's structure suffered extensive damage. Residents near Elbow Beach report a significant outflow from a broken pipe. Other details of damage are coming through to us this afternoon as residents emerge cautiously from their homes.
According to a spokesman for the Maritime Operations Centre, no major marine incidents took place during the storm.
However, several beacons went off — indicating that unmanned vessels were either sinking, or on the rocks.
“We are still waiting for the weather to go down a bit,” he said. “No one wants to go out in this.”
We are anticipating that Bermuda will be dropped to a tropical storm warning later this evening, winds having reduced significantly this afternoon.
Earlier today, after giving locals a brief respite in the wake of its most punishing winds, the storm resumed in force.
“Significant” power outages hit the island, according to Senator Jeffrey Baron, the Minister of National Security, who said there had been no reports thus far of storm related fatalities or major injuries.
The Causeway will have to be assessed after the hurricane passes. Mr Baron said he was “cautiously optimistic”, with no reports yet of major structural damage.
However, flooding and road damage has been reported to The Royal Gazette.
The eye of the hurricane made its advent around 11am, but the other side of the hurricane returned around 12.30pm, and powerfully, buffetting the North Shore hardest before winds began to subside near sunset.
The National Hurricane Centre shows Nicole weakening gradually as it continues northeast.
Radar earlier showed the southwest of the island peeking through cloud after a long and punishing storm in which its most powerful zone, the northeastern corner, moved over and past the island.
Minor debris littered Hamilton's streets, with branches down in the parks, and the tarpaulin over the ferry terminal has been ripped off.
Mr Baron said as of 10am that the Causeway remained intact, adding that he was in continual contact with the Emergency Measures Organisation.
However it is evident from reports during the short calm that many houses around the island have taken damage.
Reports of leaks and roof damage are coming in to The Royal Gazette and flooding has been described in low-lying areas of Hamilton — especially around the usual culprit where the Pembroke Canal drains.
It was been a tough morning: conditions on the ground began to deteriorate sharply at 8.30am, and by 10.30am had reached a ferocious intensity in Hamilton, as Nicole's strongest patch of high winds and heavy rain swept over.
Isolated tornadoes remain a possibility: a couple of vortices, indicative of rotation and possible brief, small tornadoes, have been observed.
Mr Baron praised residents' conduct on social media, noting the atmosphere of togetherness and concern, with little misinformation.
Meanwhile, reports of power outages have been coming in from readers all over the island.
Outages this evening stood at 25,800 or around 85 per cent of customers, with Belco advising that crews cannot be deployed until after the storm.
Forecasters said the island has been subject to winds of tropical storm force since about 1am on Thursday, including gusts of hurricane strength.
Hamilton at sunrise was drenched and eerily calm, but fierce gusts intensified as the morning wore on, and by 9am The Royal Gazette was blanketed by sustained, squalling gusts.
Defying earlier expectations, Hurricane Nicole raged into a major Category 4 storm late on Wednesday, and has kept its strength coming into local waters, before downgrading this morning.
According to the National Hurricane Centre, the storm should weaken further as it passes, but last night's Cat 4 status surpassed earlier expectations, making Nicole the biggest hurricane of recent years to make landfall.
Hurricane Fabian struck the island in 2003 as a Category 3 storm, with winds of 120mph, inflicting widespread damage.
As a tropical storm, Nicole meandered while Hurricane Matthew was the focus of attention, but forecasters this week have consistently placed Nicole on a direct course for Bermuda.
As the island readied, the Royal Bermuda Regiment yesterday mustered a contingent of 140 troops to swing into action in Nicole's aftermath: there are four immediate response teams stationed at Warwick Camp, with another based on the St George's side of the Causeway to cover the East End.
The Causeway closed yesterday at 11.06pm.
The East End soldiers are bolstered with a team from the RBR's Boat Troop, which will evacuate casualties to Grotto Bay for ambulance pick-up if the Causeway is impassable.
Yesterday, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said that while the Bermuda Weather Service had been confident of the storm's path from the beginning, they were “a bit uncertain as to its strength”.
“Hurricanes are fickle in nature. We should prepare for the potential that it may vary from estimates. I would like to assure the people of Bermuda that we have done everything necessary to prepare us, and I would urge calm. For now, we should hunker down and get rest. I wouldn't want people worrying about what it could be. This is when we come together as a people and look after each other.”
Mr Dunkley earlier visited the emergency shelter at CedarBridge Academy, and will call on the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre later before visiting the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, to thank all staff.
“While some of us might be with family or friends, all these workers are not at home,” he said. “They are out there taking care of our needs.”
In the storm's wake, soldiers at Warwick Camp will deploy after detailed reconnaissance and risk assessments, according to Regiment Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel David Curley.
“They will be tasked to go west and east of Warwick Camp to initially start clearing roads.
“This is one of our main tasks — it's something we do really well and we're fully certified and well rehearsed to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.”
Hurricane winds should commence at about dawn and persist until evening, according to the BWS. If the storm strikes at a Category 3 intensity, damage to buildings and downing of trees is a strong possibility.
Mr Dunkley said he appreciated residents might be “anxious about what's ahead — it's a little slower and bigger than expected”.
“People should get all the rest they can. When they wake up, the storm will be on their doorsteps.”
Hamilton was busy throughout Wednesday, with hardware stores doing a brisk trade in anticipation of a significant strike — the island's third dead-on hit in three years, after the double impact of Fay and Gonzalo in 2014.
The BWS gave a frank warning for residents to expect “strong winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms, possible tornadoes, and dangerous surf and rip currents, with storm surge building six to eight feet on top of very high seas”.
Former firefighter Shawn Grant had these words of advice: “If it gets particularly rough, go to the bathroom. The bathroom is the strongest part of the house.”
With the high tide just before 7am as Nicole draws near, seas will remain high throughout Thursday, with 6 to 8 feet surge on top.
“It is just a slow-moving, long storm,” said East End resident Chris Flook. “That is the frustrating thing because you want to go out and fix stuff — but you have got to wait it out.”
He planned to be awake at 4am, “more than likely nail-biting, hearing the rattling and waiting for it to come.”
With Nicole coming less than three weeks after Tropical Storm Karl threatened the island, residents knew the drill and prepared swiftly.
Mr Dunkley commended the island's preparation efforts, thanking national security minister Senator Jeff Baron, Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva and the Emergency Measures Organisation for a “tremendous job getting the message out the last couple of days”.
If Nicole hits as a Category 3 or strong Category 2, residents can expect significant debris in the island's roads.
Colonel Curley said the regiment first aim would be to “unblock roads to ensure that emergency service vehicles can move freely”.
He added: “If we didn't go out there right away when it is deemed safe, it would take a lot longer to clear these roads and there might be severe casualties that need immediate treatment at the hospital.
“Our other main task is to support the Bermuda Police Service with reassurance patrols, and our Operational Support Unit is tasked for this role.”
Hurricane Nicole is strong and slow-moving, he said.
“We won't know what we'll find when we deploy out of the gates of Warwick Camp, but we are trained in all aspects of this kind of work and very experienced. We did very well with Fay and Gonzalo two years ago.”
He added that soldiers based in the East End will also check the airport runway to ensure that it is clear of debris, to allow flights in and out to resume as soon as possible.
“We are Bermuda's insurance policy and we intend to live up to our promise to protect and serve our community,” Colonel Curley said in closing.