Hurricane Gonzalo is forecast to make a direct hit or close approach to Bermuda sometime on Friday, most likely as a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricane and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (75 kilometers) and 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the center of circulation, respectively. After clearing Bermuda, Gonzalo should eventually make landfall in Eastern Atlantic Canada as a strong post-tropical cyclone.
Expected hazards include hurricane winds for a prolonged period. While Bermuda arguably has very resilient building stock, the prolonged period of hurricane-force winds and its Category 3 status can render structural damage even to reinforced concrete and engineered structures on the island. Widespread damage is probable including disruption of local infrastructure, with severe to complete damage to less-resilient or older structures. Wind damage will be most severe on the southern flanks of the island and in higher elevations.
National Hurricane Center Forecast track of Hurricane Gonzalo with track and wind history.
NHC Forecast track of Hurricane Gonzalo with track and wind history.
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A storm surge with significant and damaging waves can also be expected. The specifics of the storm surge depend on whether Gonzalo makes a direct hit to the island, or in the worst case, whether it makes a close approach to the west. Heavy rainfall of three to six inches is expected over Bermuda.
Large swells triggered by Gonzalo are affecting parts of the Virgin Islands, the Northern coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as portions of the Bahamas. Swells are expected to reach much of the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda later Thursday.
The Bermuda government said it would close the island’s international airport Thursday night. Several airlines increased the number of flights departing Bermuda ahead of the storm. Residents have been installing storm shutters and stocking up on supplies in preparation for the hurricane.
Bermuda’s residents are still recovering from Tropical Storm Fay last weekend. More than 1,000 homes remain without power and homeowners are working to repair damaged roofs. The impact of Gonzalo could well be worse.
Further south, Gonzalo has caused one reported casualty in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten as Gonzalo affected the eastern Caribbean this week. Multiple people were reported missing in the French territories of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy. Light to moderate property damage has been reported.
As Gonzalo clears Bermuda and moves into an environment with dry air, increasing wind shear and much cooler waters, weakening is expected before Gonzalo makes a close approach or landfall in eastern Atlantic Canada as a powerful post-tropical cyclone on Sunday.
Gonzalo is the seventh storm of the Atlantic tropical season that runs from June through November. Gonzalo is also the third hurricane to affect the Caribbean this year. Hurricane Cristobal left at least four people dead in late August when it affected the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands and Dominican Republic with heavy rains causing serious flooding.
Sources: Agence France Presse, Reuters, Associated Press, National Hurricane Center.
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