HAMILTON, Bermuda (AFP) – Hurricane Gonzalo made a direct hit on Bermuda as a strong category two storm, unleashing driving rains and punishing winds that plunged thousands of terrified residents into the dark.
Gonzalo, which has already killed one person and caused property damage in the Caribbean, was buffeting the British overseas territory with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles (175 kilometres) per hour, forecasters said early Saturday.
At 0500 GMT, the storm was about 70 miles northeast of Bermuda and moving away from the island – home to about 65,000 people – the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
“Dangerous Hurricane Gonzalo still hitting Bermuda with hurricane-force wind gusts,” it warned.
The island’s only newspaper, The Royal Gazette, reported that 31,200 homes – or a majority of Bermudians – were without power. Flooding and storm surges were reported all around the island, the report said.
Residents reported a strange calm as the eye of the storm passed late Friday evening, after which the second half of Gonzalo again lashed the island with pounding rains and potentially destructive winds.
Melanie Fullerton, in the parish of Devonshire, said it was the strongest storm she had known in more than a decade.
“I have weathered several storms, including Fabian (in 2003)… I am so terrified,” she told AFP via Facebook.
“We are experiencing 134 mile per hour gusts from the inside wall of the hurricane and we are expected to experience up to 100 mph winds until 2am (0500 GMT). The whole island just wants it to be over. Pray for us!”