Hurricane Gonzalo is now a dangerous Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale and is expected to make a close approach to Bermuda, with closest approach this evening. Model guidance is in close agreement on this scenario. Gonzalo will be the strongest hurricane to affect Bermuda since Hurricane Fabian (2003), also a Category 3. Tropical storm winds are already affecting the island of Bermuda, and the onset of hurricane conditions is expected this afternoon. A significant surge event can be expected with battering 30 foot waves.
Gonzalo is currently moving to the north-northeast through a break in the subtropical ridge under southerly steering flow and is located 150 miles (254 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda. Hurricane and tropical storm force winds extend outward from the center of circulation to 60 miles (95 kilometers) and 175 miles (280 kilometers), respectively. Large swells continue to affect parts of the Virgin Islands, the northern coasts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, parts of the Bahamas and the U.S. Southeast coast.
National Hurricane Center forecast track and wind history.
NHC forecast track and wind history.
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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 close approach to Eastern Atlantic Canada as a powerful post-tropical cyclone on Sunday.
Gonzalo is the seventh storm of the Atlantic season, the first Category 4 hurricane since 2011, and the third hurricane to affect the Caribbean this year.
Expected Hazards and Impacts
Expected hazards include dangerous winds of a strong Category 3 hurricane over a prolonged period. While Bermuda arguably has very resilient building stock, these winds can render structural damage even to reinforced concrete and engineered structures. Widespread moderate damage is probable, 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.
A dangerous storm surge with battering waves to 30 feet is also expected. While the storm surge cannot be reliably forecast at this time, Hurricane Fabian (2003) produced a surge of 10 feet. Heavy rainfall of three to six inches is also expected over Bermuda.
Bermuda is still recovering from Tropical Storm Fay, which affected the island Sunday as a strong tropical storm, causing light damage with downed trees and some flooding. Approximately 1,500 homes were still without power late Thursday.
Authorities have urged residents in low-lying areas to seek higher ground due to dangerous storm surge and flooding concerns. Authorities on Thursday evacuated two hotels along Bermuda’s southern coast, with guests either flying out or being placed in another hotel. Bermuda closed its schools, government offices and international airport, as well as suspending all public transportation, including ferries.
Residents have been installing storm shutters and stocking up on supplies in preparation for the hurricane. Authorities have opened a high school as a shelter, and urged residents to remain off the roads and indoors.
Bermuda is an island of roughly 70,000 people with among the highest per-capita incomes in the world.
Further south in the Caribbean, one fatality has been reported in the Dutch portion of Saint Martin Island. Three individuals are also reported missing on the island of St. Barthelemy and French authorities expressed concern for four other people they fear may be missing. Gonzalo damaged approximately three dozen vessels in the Dutch portion of Saint Martin Island.
Sources: Agence France Presse, Reuters, Associated Press, National Hurricane Center.
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