by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Oct 14, 2016
A weakening hurricane Nicole began moving away from Bermuda after slamming into the tiny British archipelago Thursday, though wind gusts of tropical storm force were still possible, the National Hurricane Center said.
"Weakening is forecast during the next couple of days, but Nicole is expected to remain at hurricane intensity even though it could become a post-tropical cyclone on Saturday," the Miami-based center said in its latest public advisory.
Nicole was moving toward the northeast at 21 miles (33 kilometers) per hour with maximum sustained winds near 110 miles per hour.
The NHC had classified the hurricane as an "extremely dangerous" Category Three storm when it hit, just two notches shy of top intensity level on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
"It's been a long day," Premier Michael Dunkley told local media, though he said the worst had passed without causing any deaths or serious injuries.
"I'm certainly proud... to be able to work with so many people who stand the test of time and meet a real challenge," the premier said, before asking islanders to stay off the roads to ease clean-up efforts.
The country's power authority, Belco, said that by Thursday evening power was restored to more than 11,000 customers, though some 16,000 were still without electricity.
- 'Resilient population' -
Before the storm roared in National Security Minister Jeffrey Baron expressed confidence that Bermudians were ready.
"Bermuda has a very long history of navigating through serious storms and hurricanes. We are a very resilient population and when we are faced with a serious storm, Bermudians band together in the face of adversity. We are very proud of that," he told AFP.
Authorities in Bermuda closed schools and government offices on Wednesday. Buildings were boarded up as heavy wind and rain hit the islands, and airlines had canceled flights. Rain and powerful gusts began hitting early Thursday.
High-profile Bermudians overseas were watching nervously.
"Sending prayers to my island @Bermuda," tweeted Shiona Turini, recently profiled by the New York Times as stylist to singer Solange Knowles. "Hurricane Nicole may be a category 4 but we're tiny and strong."
"Stay safe everyone!" tweeted world champion triathlete Flora Duffy.
The NHC said water levels would likely subside by Thursday evening but swells would affect Bermuda and spread northward up the US east coast, creating "dangerous surf conditions and rip currents."
Last week, Hurricane Matthew, caused massive devastation in Haiti and other Caribbean countries before sweeping up the US southeast coast.
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