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Hurricane Gonzalo blasts over Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo approaching Bermuda, NASA.org.
Hurricane Gonzalo approaching Bermuda, NASA.org.

When Hurricane Gonzalo hit Bermuda on Friday, it was still a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. But by the time the eye of the storm passed over the island, it had been downgraded to a Category 2 with 110 mph winds. According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, the eye passed over Bermuda at 8:30 p.m. AST, and the eye was twice the size the length of the island.

“The storm weakened prior to landfall due to both lower sea surface temperatures and higher wind shear in the vicinity of Bermuda,” said Scott Stransky, manager and principal scientist at AIR Worldwide, and followed on the heels of Tropical Storm Fay, which had passed over the island the week before. Stransky says that Fay reduced the water temperatures around the island, making Gonzalo slightly weaker than it might have been otherwise.

The Bermuda Electric Light Company, Bermuda’s utility service, reported that approximately 80% of the island’s 65,000 residents lost power from the storm. The Causeway, which links the Bermuda International Airport in St. George’s Parish to Hamilton Parish on the mainland, was closed Friday morning and sustained minor damage. Several sections of the concrete wall were damaged by the waves.

The rough seas also tore some sailboats and yachts from their moorings, running some aground and sinking others. Stransky says,” Damage may also have been mitigated by the very fact that the very large – and very calm – eye of Gonzalo passed over Bermuda, which reduced the total number of hours of significant winds. Nevertheless, roof damage – ranging from a few blown off tiles to, in some cases, loss of nearly the entire roof – is fairly widespread.”

AIR says that some of the more notable buildings that sustained damage include the House of Assembly, the police headquarters, the Visitor Center in St. Georges, the hospital, the Bermuda Aquarium, the Bermuda Museum of Art and the Zoo.

“Gonzalo is just the third recorded Cat 2 or above storm to pass directly over the island of Bermuda since NOAA’s official hurricane database, HURDAT, began in 1851. The other storms were in 1895 and 1922. Hurricane Fabian’s track was just west of the island in 2003, and the center did not pass directly overhead,” added Stransky.

Fabian caused about $300 million (USD) in losses in 2003 numbers. AIR estimates that recurrence today would cost the industry around $650 million (USD).

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