According to catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide, as of 11AM Atlantic Standard Time on Thursday, October 16, 2014 Hurricane Gonzalo’s eye was located about 485 miles (780 km) SSW of Bermuda.
The storm is moving north at 7 mph (11 km/h), with maximum sustained winds close to 145 mph (230 km/h) according to the National Hurricane Centre, which makes the storm a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind intensity scale.
AIR has observed hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the centre and tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 150 miles (240 km).
“As Gonzalo moves into cooler sea surface temperatures and slightly higher wind shear over the next 24 hours, it is expected to weaken slowly and turn towards the north-northeast while increasing its forward speed,” said Scott Stransky, manager and principal scientist at AIR Worldwide. “However, it is still expected to be a category 3 storm when it passes very close to Bermuda on Friday. Gonzalo is the strongest hurricane to occur in the Atlantic since Ophelia in 2011. It is the first major event to impact Bermuda since Hurricane Fabian in 2003.”
Gonzalo has already caused power outages, water shortages, and structural damage in several Caribbean islands, particularly St. Maarten and St. Martin, Antigua, and the Leeward Islands. Winds reaching 88 mph damaged a luxury hotel on the west coast of Antigua, blew off roof coverings, and caused severe damage to the island’s farms. Several cruise ships from Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean cruise lines have cancelled or changed itineraries due to the storm.
Stransky continued: “Gonzalo is expected to pose a significant threat to Bermuda beginning late Thursday and Friday morning, with hurricane conditions arriving on Friday. The island is still recovering from Tropical Storm Fay, which struck on Sunday, and prices for contractors are already rising in anticipation of Gonzalo. Fay took out power to nearly all of Bermuda and power still has not been restored everywhere. Fay also downed trees, branches, and coconuts, increasing the threat from flying debris due to Gonzalo’s winds.
“Dangerous storm surges are expected in Bermuda along with severe winds. Note that winds at elevated locations and on the windward sides of hills can be accelerated significantly. Additionally, Gonzalo is expected to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain over Bermuda.”
Residents are pulling boats in from dockyards and boarding up businesses and homes, while stocking up on food and supplies. Store shelves are reportedly empty.
Dangerous surf conditions and rip currents are expected to reach portions of the Virgin Islands, the northern coasts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, parts of the Bahamas, much of the east coast of the United States and Bermuda today.
AIR said it will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional information as warranted.
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