Hurricane Florence aims for Bermuda
HAMILTON, Bermuda, Sep 10 (Reuters) The sixth tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence, strengthened into a hurricane in the open Atlantic today, US forecasters said.
The storm's maximum sustained winds increased to 80 mph making it a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the US National Hurricane Center said.
Forecasters predicted the storm would intensify to a Category 2 hurricane as it passed Bermuda. Category 2 hurricanes have winds of at least 154 kph and are capable of moderate damage.
Florence was 320 miles south of Bermuda by 1030 hrs IST and moving north-northwest at 24 km per hour, according to the Miami-based hurricane center.
The hurricane was expected to make a gradual turn toward the north today.
''The center of Florence is expected to pass very near Bermuda tomorrow morning. However, tropical storm force winds could reach the island this afternoon,'' the hurricane center said.
The storm's approach prompted Bermuda's government to issue a hurricane warning today, telling its 63,000 residents they should rush to complete preparations because hurricane conditions could arrive within 24 hours.
Bermuda shut its airport and put emergency workers on standby on Saturday. The airport was not expected to re-open until Tuesday, officials said.
Acting Police Commissioner Roseanda Young said hundreds of emergency service workers were on standby and tourists have been issued emergency plans by their hotels.
''All tourists have been given the opportunity to leave.
Those still here have chosen to stay,'' she said.
Coastal residents on the 22-mile-long island were urged to head to the government shelter in a high school.
Bermuda could experience 6- to 8-foot storm surges as Florence passes by the island, the hurricane center said.
Florence was a large storm and large ocean swells and dangerous surf conditions, including rip tides, were already affecting Bermuda, as well as the Northern Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.
Those conditions will begin to affect areas of the US East Coast today morning, according to the hurricane center.
Bermuda could expect 5 to 8 inches of rain, with up to 10 inches in places, the center said.
Mechanic Paul Henderson, 53, recalled 1987's devastating Hurricane Emily as he stocked up on batteries.
''I was still cleaning up my property three years after,'' he said.
REUTERS SY BST1524