by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Oct 13, 2016
Major hurricane Nicole slammed into Bermuda Thursday, lashing the tiny British archipelago with 120 mile (195 kilometer) per hour winds as the storm's eye passed over, US forecasters said.
It was a classified as an "extremely dangerous" Category Three storm when it hit, just two notches shy of top intensity level on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
"Eye of Nicole passing over Bermuda," the Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported.
Before it hit, National Security Minister Jeffrey Baron expressed confidence that Bermudians were ready for the storm.
"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.
"The public have heeded the weather warnings and advisories, they have been helping and supporting each other and I have been extremely encouraged by their level of awareness and preparedness for Hurricane Nicole."
The hurricane was expected to pull away from the archipelago in the afternoon, but forecasters warned it would whip the islands with hurricane force winds on its way out.
Authorities in Bermuda closed schools and government offices on Wednesday.
Buildings were boarded up as heavy wind and rain hit the islands, and airlines have canceled flights.
"I believe we are generally ready for it," local media reported Premier Michael Dunkley as saying.
"Now we just have to hope and pray for the best."
- 'Nicole is here' -
Rain and powerful gusts began hitting early Thursday, though many noted that the island's famous tree frogs, tiny amphibians whose high-pitched chirping is the soundtrack to Bermuda nights, were still singing even as the wind reached tropical storm force.
"It's loud out there. Nicole is here," wrote resident Katura Horton-Perinchief on Facebook. Up to 2,000 people had lost power before 9:00 am, local media reported, a significant number in a country with a population of around 65,000.
High-profile Bermudians overseas were also 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 warned that a dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as six to eight feet (two to 2.5 meters) above normal tide levels, accompanied by "large and destructive" waves.
It said Nicole is expected to produce rainfall of five to eight inches (10 to 20 centimeters) over Bermuda.
The hurricane will also spread surf swells north along the east coast of the United States over the next few days, and could also spawn tornadoes, it said.
Last week, Hurricane Matthew, caused massive devastation in Haiti and other Caribbean countries before sweeping up the US southeast coast.
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