October 21st, 2014

Hurricane Gonzalo — Update

Posted at 10:32 AM ET

gonzalo-10-20-i-200Hurricane Gonzalo approached Bermuda late Friday as a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, before making direct landfall as a strong Category 2. Maximum sustained winds at landfall were 110 mph according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC). The hurricane caused widespread structural damage and flooding, with downed trees and power lines. However, damage was less severe than expected, with no reported fatalities or major injuries in Bermuda. After clearing Bermuda, Gonzalo made a close approach to Atlantic Canada, bringing very large waves and storm force winds, but with minimal impacts. Gonzalo is now approaching the northern United Kingdom as a powerful post tropical cyclone, where it is expected to render very heavy rain and gusty winds exceeding 60 mph (100 kilometers per hour) over the next 24 hours.

Meteorological Summary

According to the NHC, Hurricane Gonzalo made landfall directly over Bermuda at around 8:30 p.m. local time Friday, October 17 (00:30 UTC, October 18). Maximum sustained winds (one minute estimated over water) were 110 mph, with an estimated central pressure of 951 mb. Gonzalo was a strong Category 2 hurricane as the center of circulation crossed the island, but was a Category 3 hurricane on its approach. This was a rare but not unprecedented event, with Hurricane Fabian (2003) as the last major hurricane to make direct landfall on the island. 

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History of Hurricane Gonzalo through 21 UTC Sunday. Following advisories of the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

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History of Hurricane Gonzalo. Following advisories of the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or GC Analytics® representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

Sustained winds on the island were measured of 98 mph at an elevated site at Commissioner’s Point in Bermuda, and 90 mph at an elevated site at St. David’s Bermuda near the airport. The Bermuda International Airport also reported a sustained wind speed of 74 mph, with a gust to 96 mph. 

Gonzalo slowly weakened over cooler waters and increasing wind shear as it made close approach to the Avalon Peninsula of Atlantic Canada early Sunday morning. During its close approach, Gonzalo brought heavy rain, gusty winds with tropical storm force gusts at Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Canada. The Canadian Hurricane Centre reported about 1.9 inches (4.8 centimeters) of rain at St. John’s International Airport. Heavy surf was another hazard. Reported wave heights reached 39 feet (12 meters), but the low tide helped to ease impacts. 

Gonzalo completed extratropical transition late Sunday and now is approaching the Northern United Kingdom. Heavy rain and gusty winds are expected over the next 24 hours as the remnants of Gonzalo move across the area. Gales are expected to move eastwards from Monday night and especially Tuesday, mainly affecting Northern Ireland, Northern England, Northern Wales, and parts of Scotland. The UK Met Office has issued yellow warnings to this effect. The UK Met Office is expecting 60 mph (100 kilometers per hour) gusts, with the worst of the winds and rain expected during Tuesday evening’s rush hour. Some coastal areas could experience higher gusts, especially along Northern Scotland where gusts could approach 80 mph (130 kilometers per hour). Some disruption of travel and possible structural damage are expected. 

Impacts 

Bermuda appears to have been spared catastrophic damage according to government officials. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or fatalities in Bermuda. 

Government officials praised residents for effectively preparing for the storm and for staying in their homes. Schools, businesses, grocery stores and government offices all closed, and many people boarded up windows and placed sandbags outside homes in preparation. Bermuda’s international airport also closed before the storm. According to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, cruise ships that planned to dock were cancelled through Monday. 

Gonzalo downed many trees, and caused extensive property damage across the island with roof damage and flooding, including some damage to the main hospital. Gonzalo also ripped part of the roof off the island’s legislature building. Additionally the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo reported substantial damage, including a roof torn off an exhibit and serious coastal erosion. However, all its animals were safe. There were reports of toppled concrete walls, uprooted trees and boats run aground.

Reports note that the structure of some homes, built of concrete brick and limestone, enabled them to withstand the winds with minimal damage. 

Media reports indicate that roads and infrastructure sustained damage less severe than expected. Many major roads remain open and Bermuda’s LF Wade International Airport was scheduled to reopen Sunday evening. 

Although damage has been less severe than anticipated, residents are still recovering from the impacts of Gonzalo. Reports indicate at least 31,200 homes were without power according to the Bermuda Electric Light Co. (BELCO). One-third of its customers remained without power as of midday on Sunday, according to BELCO, which reported 12,000 of its 36,000 customers were still without electricity. 

Media sources note that according to Bermuda Premier Michael Dunkley, clean-up efforts were going smoothly, noting that the United States, Britain and other nations have offered assistance. No catastrophic damage was reported on Bermuda, which has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world and is known for strict building codes meant to ensure homes can withstand sustained winds of at least 110 mph. 

Since leaving Bermuda, Gonzalo continued northward rendering few serious impacts in Atlantic Canada. 

Husky Energy had halted production to one of their assets in the Grand Banks, but no other major disruptions, damage or evacuations have been reported to offshore assets in the area. 

Sources: Agence France Presse, Reuters, Associated Press, National Hurricane Center, BBC, The Weather Network, U.K. Met Office

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Guy Carpenter publishes CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

Guy Carpenter compiles RISK-i reports for major technological or man-made events worldwide. These reports cover risks to property, transport and life including explosions, fires, crashes, engineering disasters and terrorist attacks that are likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email RISK.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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