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Hurricane Earl on course to pass 100 miles east of island

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Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, right, with Steve Cosham, the national disaster coordinator (Photograph supplied)

Public services, government offices and public transportation are expected to keep running today as Hurricane Earl swings past Bermuda as a major storm at midnight.

But Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, warned the island could expect “deteriorating weather conditions, including rain and the onset of tropical storm windows” tonight.

LF Wade International Airport remains open, and Mr Weeks said he was grateful there would be no disruption to public schools as they have not yet reopened for classes.

Covid testing for the return to school is set to start on Friday, and so far Mr Weeks said yesterday it was “a little early to determine whether any services on Friday will be disrupted”.

The Department of Education is among the agencies tasked with monitoring the hurricane’s approach.

Some cruise ships have altered their schedules, with the Norwegian Getaway no longer scheduled to call on the island today.

The Emergency Measures Organisation was to convene again today to get the latest on the storm, which arrives after a quiet hurricane season.

A Tropical Storm Watch and a Hurricane Warning are in effect for the island.

As of 9am, Earl was about 257 miles south of the island and moving north at 9mph.

The storm’s path is expected to shift to the east, bringing the system about 100 miles to Bermuda’s east-southeast at midnight.

By that time, Hurricane Earl it is expected to be a Category 3 storm – the first major hurricane of the year – with maximum sustained winds of 120mph.

The storm had maximum sustained winds this morning of 100mph with hurricane force winds extending up to 45 miles from the centre and tropical storm force winds extending up to 150 miles.

Latest graphic from the Bermuda Weather Service

The Bermuda Weather Service said conditions are expected to deteriorate by early evening with easterly gale force winds likely as the night goes on.

Overnight, winds are forecast to be northeasterly with strong to gale force winds. Some storm force winds are expected, especially in the eastern and exposed parts of the island.

Winds are expected to decrease towards dawn and to back from the north-northwest.

Mr Weeks reiterated a call for anyone venturing into the waters off the South Shore to “please exercise caution and also a bit of common sense” as the coastline was seeing “significant swells and rip currents”.

He had no figures for lifeguard activity that had been reported on Tuesday.

“But every time there’s bad weather coming or a tropical storm, you get the daredevils that sit in wait,” Mr Weeks said, noting that “every season people like to go out and challenge the surf”.

He reminded the public that daring the rough conditions put lifeguards at risk.

“So we’re asking the public – we are begging – to use common sense with their need to be daredevils.”

Storm preparations

The Government has urged members of the public to prepare themselves and their homes for the potential impact of Hurricane Earl.

Residents should:

•Make any small repairs around their home.

•Secure outdoor furniture.

•Review family plans and update them with any changes to phone numbers and other important information.

•Stock up on any medical prescriptions that their family and pets require and ensure they have at least two weeks supply on hand.

•Check their hurricane kit to make sure they have working flashlights, a portable radio with spare batteries and a stock of non-perishable food to last your family for seven days.

•Ensure their house insurance policy is up to date.

•Check on their vulnerable neighbours and ask them if they need any help with their preparations.

Regular updates will be provided on the Government’s Emergency Broadcast Station, 100.1FM, and weather.bm.

A Government spokeswoman said last night: “As a public safety measure, late this afternoon, the Department of Parks posted High Surf Warning signs along the south shore beaches, from John Smith’s Bay to Whale Bay. Signs have been also posted at Clearwater, Turtle Beach and at Cooper’s Island.

“In that regard, beach goers should still use extreme caution should they choose to swim along the south shore.”

Steve Cosham, the national disaster management coordinator, advised that the storm was still a significant distance from the island – but tropical storm winds could be expected from 7pm Thursday until “at least” 6am Friday.

He added yesterday: “Those will be revised again tomorrow morning.”

Mr Cosham said there had been small changes in the forecast modelling for Earl’s course because the storm was making its curve to the northeast.

“When hurricanes come up off Africa, we see them make that banana curve to our south, and they curve towards the island and then to the northeast.

“When they make that curve, there’s always some variance in the track. When they go in a straight line, there a lot more confidence in the track.”

Forecasts yesterday had Earl ramping up to Category 4 strength after the storm passes.

Mr Cosham said weather services had “high” confidence in the storms track but “a lower degree of confidence” in the intensity of the season’s first major storm.

But he said officials would be “negligent is we didn’t have contingency plans, should the storm bob a little to the left and come closer to Bermuda”.

In the event of a closer approach, Mr Cosham said night businesses might have to “close a little earlier”.

He pointed out that the weakest side of hurricanes lay along the storm’s western flank.

“As it’s passing Bermuda on the right side, it’s the best side for Bermuda to experience the least impactful windows,” he said.

The brush with Hurricane Earl comes as seas around the island run comparatively warm because of the lack of activity so far this Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 31.

Mr Cosham said that when hurricanes come through Bermuda waters, the top 100 to 200ft of the oceans are stirred up, bringing a cooling effect.

“We haven’t seen any hurricanes and so we have not seen any disturbance,” he said.

Mr Cosham said a quiet hurricane season was now gearing up.

“If you look at the National Hurricane Centre, they have a storm that’s currently west of the Cabo Verde islands, and another storm that’s coming off Africa now.

“So they have predicted we are going to see one every week or every ten days for the next few weeks.”

• UPDATE: This article has been updated with the latest information from the Bermuda Weather Service.

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Published September 08, 2022 at 8:07 am (Updated September 08, 2022 at 9:39 am)

Hurricane Earl on course to pass 100 miles east of island

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