High surf warnings as island set to endure 12 hours of tropical storm conditions
The public have been urged to stay safe and off the roads tonight as Hurricane Fiona prepares to blow past the island tomorrow morning.
It comes as the latest forecast from the Bermuda Weather Service warned that conditions are deteriorating – see panel.
The BWS warned that seas/swells “will continue to build overnight, becoming 30-45ft by the end of the night, which is the very high to near phenomenal category.
“As such seas will become dangerous and extremely hazardous conditions, especially on exposed shorelines.
“Fiona is also expected to generate a storm surge up to around 3ft, which will coincide with high tide towards the end of the night. This is likely to produce some inundation/flooding in low lying area adjacent to the coast.”
According to the Bermuda Weather Service 9pm update, conditions are beginning to deteriorate as Hurricane Fiona makes its final approach to our near WNW later tonight (closest point of approach is around 5am of 100nm or so).
Overcast skies have been steered across the area all day, with extensive medium/high cloud and patchy low clouds.
Other than the odd sprinkle here and there it has been mostly dry. However, later tonight rain bands are expected to press in ahead of Fiona (on its NE side), giving some moderate to heavy showers and likely isolated thunderstorms.
SE winds are now increasing into the 20-30kt range as forecast, and will continue to increase through the night as they veer towards the south. By the end of the night 55-70kt winds can be expected, especially across the western marine area and far western Parishes.
Gusts towards 90kt are possible too, especially across the most exposed/elevated areas in the west. Seas are currently building into the rough category in associated with SSW swells from Fiona. Seas/swells will continue to build overnight, becoming 30-45ft by the end of the night, which is the very high to near phenomenal category.
As such seas will become dangerous and extremely hazardous conditions, especially on exposed shorelines.
Fiona is also expected to generate a storm surge up to around 3ft, which will coincide with high tide towards the end of the night. This is likely to produce some inundation/flooding in low lying area adjacent to the coast.
Given all the above, a hurricane warning remains in effect through this period.
Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, said that Government offices will be shut tomorrow and the emergency shelter at CedarBridge will open its doors at 5pm.
However he said the Causeway is expected to remain open.
“We talked about it in depth at the Emergency Measures Organisation meeting, and we decided that the Causeway will be monitored very closely,” he said.
“If it is deemed that it has to be closed at short notice, then we will do so and alert the public.”
The Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre in St David’s will be open from 6pm today until at least noon tomorrow.
Mr Weeks previously announced that public schools will also be closed tomorrow with classes resuming on Monday.
Bus service will halt at 10pm, with the last bus departing at 9pm, and ferry service will stop at 4pm.
Mr Weeks said the airport remains open, although some flights have had their schedules changed to account for the storm.
Friday’s Air Canada flight was rescheduled to arrive and depart today, while today’s British Airways flights will arrive and depart earlier than previously planned.
High surf warning signed have been put up at the island’s beaches, with the minister urging the public to stay out of the water.
Trash collection will not take place on Friday, but residents who usually receive trash collection on Thursday or Friday are asked to put out their waste on Saturday morning.
Mr Weeks said the island is forecast to endure at least 12 hours of tropical storm conditions as Hurricane Fiona passes beginning late tonight, along with five to six hours of winds exceeding 50 knots early Friday morning.
“At this stage, you should be in final preparations for the hurricane,” he said. “Dangerous surf and swells are already developing, so we want residents to please take this storm seriously.”
Michelle Pitcher, meteorologist with the Bermuda Weather Service, said Hurricane Fiona was expected to weaken to a Category 3 storm before it reaches its closest point of approach about 100 nautical miles to the island’s west northwest at 5am. However, it remained a category 4 storm.
“However this does not do much to change our forecast,” she said. “Bermuda is still under a hurricane warning.”
Ms Pitcher said that in addition to strong tropical storm force winds early Friday morning, the island could briefly experience hurricane force winds.
“Around the closest point of approach, we could briefly see the strongest hurricane force winds in the westernmost extent of the island, and they also could be present in any squalls, heavier showers or thunderstorms,” she said.
Ms Pitcher added that the island should expect “strong wave and surge impact” with seas outside the reef forecast to reach 45ft as Fiona passes.
The US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the storm was still a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130mph.
“Little change in strength is expected today,” NOAA said. “Some weakening is expected to begin tonight or Friday, but Fiona is forecast be a large and powerful post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds when it moves over Nova Scotia Friday night and Saturday.
“Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 205 miles.”
Mr Weeks urged the public to stay off the roads after 10pm tonight, and said urgent service providers who do need to go out should do so cautiously.
Mr Weeks said the Royal Bermuda Regiment, the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service, Bermuda Police Service, Belco, the Bermuda Hospitals Board and various Government departments were prepared for the storm to come and positioned to provide emergency response when needed.
However he urged the public to be safe.
“The hospital is already seeing individuals coming into the emergency room with injuries due to storm preparation,” Mr Weeks said.
“Please be careful when you trim trees and secure your homes, and during clean up. Do not operate a chainsaw unless you have proper protective gear and are proficient in its safe use.”