Bermuda avoids major damage from Hurricane Humberto, cleanup crews get to work

FILE PHOTO: A cargo container floats at sea during storm in Hamilton, Bermuda September 18, 2019 in this still picture obtained from social media video. ALEXANDRE DOWLING via REUTERS

By Don Burgess

HAMILTON, Bermuda (Reuters) – Cleanup crews in Bermuda were busy at work on Thursday after Hurricane Humberto grazed the island, which escaped major harm despite winds that reached around 100 miles per hour (161 kph) snapping power poles and lifting off roofs.

Debris including power lines littered roads and dozens of homes lost parts of their roofs, a Reuters witness said.

“We have come through a really, really challenging night. Our country was resilient,” National Security Minister Wayne Caines said in a radio message.

The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service said it attended to three structural fires and 17 hurricane-related fires and also helped with 20 damaged roofs and prevented a boat from sinking.

One fire service vehicle was rendered unusable after a tree fell on it.

As of noon local time some 25,000 of the island’s 38,000 customers remained without power, while 5,000 customers have already had their electricity restored, said Caines.

The airport was reopened and flights are resuming, and a bridge to the airport was also opened after an assessment showed there was no structural damage.

Schools will remain closed on Thursday and Friday, while government office are scheduled to reopen on Friday.

Humberto was 415 miles (665 kilometers) northeast of Bermuda and packing maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 kph) on Thursday, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

“Humberto is still a powerful hurricane, but the system is in the process of transitioning to an extratropical cyclone,” the NHC said.

“Large swells and dangerous surf generated by Humberto will continue along the coast of Bermuda during the next day or two, and these could continue to cause coastal flooding,” said the NHC.

The swells are forecast to continue affecting the northwestern Bahamas and the United States coast from east-central Florida to the Mid-Atlantic states during the next couple of days.

The Atlantic storm season has picked up pace in recent weeks.

The Bahamas is still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. In the United States on Thursday, all flights into Houston’s international airport were halted as Tropical Depression Imelda inundated southeastern Texas with heavy rains and triggered flash flood warnings.

(Reporting by Don Burgess in Hamilton, Bermuda; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Large parts of Bermuda plunged into darkness as Hurricane Humberto whips island

FILE PHOTO: The eye of Hurricane Humberto is seen as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Hunter flies across it, September 16, 2019, in this still image from video obtained via social media. NOAA/Lisa Bucci/via REUTERS

By Don Burgess

HAMILTON, Bermuda (Reuters) – Hurricane Humberto knocked out power lines in Bermuda on Wednesday night, plunging nearly the whole Atlantic archipelago into darkness, as the storm whipped the British territory with powerful winds and heavy rain.

Even as Hurricane Humberto was moving away, Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast a prolonged period of dangerous winds through Thursday and warned that dangerous breaking waves could lead to coastal flooding overnight.

More than 28,000 homes and businesses had lost electricity by early evening, according to electricity company Belco. Flights were canceled and some residents in the capital, Hamilton, covered windows with wooden planks and metal sheeting.

Belco said it would begin restoring power on Thursday morning.

Bermudan officials warned residents to stay off roads and prepare for possible tornadoes as the hurricane picked up forward speed and weather conditions worsened.

The officials also reported that people who had sought refuge in an emergency housing shelter at a public high school had to be relocated after windows were damaged.

James Dodgson, director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said conditions were already worsening.

“I can’t even rule out some isolated tornadoes. … We have a very serious situation as we have a very big hurricane moving by to our north,” he told a news conference.

On Wednesday, the storm’s eye was located to the west of the archipelago, which lies about 650 miles (1,050 km) east of the United States.

The storm packed 120 mile-per-hour (193 kph) winds and picked up speed during the afternoon, moving at 20 mph (31 kph). Humberto was a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, the NHC said.

Bermuda National Disaster Coordinator Steve Cosham warned that the storm could topple trees and rip down power lines, while tornadoes could damage buildings.

Resident Saivo Goater placed boards across the sliding glass doors of his two-story dwelling, remembering back-to-back hurricanes in 2014 that ripped off parts of his roof.

“I don’t want to go through that again,” Goater said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Officials ended government ferry services and were closing a major road leading to the airport on Wednesday evening. They also opened a shelter at a high school with room for 100 people.

Schools were closed and ambulances on standby, a witness said.

The Atlantic storm season has picked up pace in recent weeks.

The Bahamas is still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, and the remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda have moved inland across the Gulf coast of Texas and southeastern Louisiana as it weakened, bringing warnings of flash floods and heavy rains.

(Reporting by Don Burgess in Hamilton, Bermuda; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Daina Beth Solomon and Stefanie Eschenbacher in Mexico City; Editing by Dan Grebler, Peter Cooney and Himani Sarkar)