Storm Leslie buffeting Bermuda

2012-09-09 18:11

Hamilton - Tropical Storm Leslie's outer bands buffeted Bermuda with gusty winds and steady rain on Sunday as its centre slipped past the wary British enclave on a path that could take it to Canada's Newfoundland.

The government announced that the LF Wade International Airport would be closed until at least 15:00. EDT (19:00 GMT) due to tropical storm winds. Major airlines already had cancelled flights to the British Atlantic territory of about 65 000 inhabitants.

With satellite images showing the large tropical storm's outer bands dwarfing the tiny territory, all bus and sea ferry services were halted and schools were ordered closed to students on Monday, though teachers and principals were still expected to report to their jobs.

Many roads were littered with tree branches and other debris. The Bermuda Electric Light Company said there have been five scattered power outages impacting hundreds of customers since the storm began impacting the grouping of islands.

But with a direct strike from Leslie's centre growing less likely, and the territory's government decided not to open an emergency shelter. Earlier in the week, it had been forecast to be a Category 2 hurricane as it passed Bermuda.

Most residents of Bermuda, a financial haven and tourist destination about 965km off the US East Coast, were taking the fast-moving outer bands of the passing storm in (their) stride. The territory has tough building codes and its people are used to strong storms.

"It's an excuse for a lazy day at home," said Natasha Hector, a resident of Bermuda's Southhampton parish who is originally from Oxfordshire, England.

Visiting London resident Philippa Raven said she was enjoying watching the storm from her friends' hilltop home.

Winds of 95km/h

"It's a good view and it's quite nice just watching it outside when you are cozy inside," said Raven, who arrived in Bermuda on Thursday.

James Dodgson, a forecaster for the Bermuda Weather Service, cautioned that even with the storm's centre probably to stay well offshore, there would be a chance of some flooding. He said a probable small storm surge of 30 to 60cm could combine with high tide to cause minor flooding in low-lying areas.

Bermuda was forecast to receive between 50 to 100mm of rain from Leslie.

Tropical storm winds extend up to 312km from its centre. By late morning, it was located about 230km east of Bermuda and was moving north at 17km/h.

The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said the storm weakened slightly early on Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 95km/h, below the hurricane threshold of 120km/h.

Some strengthening was forecast over the next two days and US forecasters said Leslie could regain hurricane strength on Monday over open ocean before a possible strike on Newfoundland and perhaps even Iceland toward the end of the week.

As Leslie moves northward, swells kicked up by the storm will affect Bermuda, the US East Coast, the Canadian Maritimes, the northern Leeward Islands and the US Caribbean territories for the next few days.

Far out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Michael weakened to a Category 1 storm, with maximum sustained winds of about 150km/h, and was not considered any threat to land. For a few hours on Thursday, it was the first Category 3 of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Michael was moving toward the west at 7km/h. It was expected to take a turn to the northwest and then north-northwest on Monday and Tuesday. It's forecast to weaken to a tropical storm by Tuesday.