SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Paulette made a rare landfall in Bermuda early Monday as a strong Category 1 storm just hours after the wealthy British territory shuttered schools, government agencies and air and sea ports.
The eye of the storm passed over the island as government officials warned of heavy flooding given that the hit coincided with an unusually high tide.
Fewer than 10 hurricanes have made direct landfall on the tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic since the National Hurricane Center began tracking such disasters in the 1850s.
Paulette was centered 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Bermuda on Monday morning and was moving north-northwest at 12 mph (19 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 95 mph (155 kph), according to the center.
Forecasters said the island would experience hurricane-force winds for roughly seven hours. Power was out across much of the island.
National Security Minister Renee Ming urged people to stay indoors and reminded the more than 70,000 people who live on the island to protect themselves given the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You should be hunkering down to ride out the storm,” Ming said during a news conference on Sunday. “We’ll see you on the other side, safe.”
Bobbi Singh, who has lived in Bermuda for eight years, told The Associated Press that while she has been through a few hurricanes, every storm brings concerns.
“The biggest challenge was preparing in the midst of COVID-19,” she said. “It gave us more to think about when heading out to get supplies in crowded places.”
Bermuda is a wealthy financial haven featuring mostly stone and concrete construction required to withstand winds of a strong Category 2 storm.
Faith Bridges, the owner of Aunt Nea’s Inn, a hotel along the island’s northern tip, told The Associated Press by phone that she had finalized all preparations by Sunday and given her guests flashlights, warning them the power would go out. But she was not worried.
“We obviously have to prepare, but we’re built for it,” she said.
Ming said she expects the international airport will reopen by Tuesday afternoon as officials warned people to stay off the roads after the hurricane given the possibility of downed power lines.
The centre said in its forecast discussion that Paulette would become a major hurricane by Monday night after it moves away from Bermuda and into open water.