Residents were warned late yesterday to hunker down and ride out the storm, as Hurricane Paulette loomed to strike Bermuda shortly before sunrise.
Renée Ming, the Minister of National Security, advised hurricane winds were expected to last from 3am to 10am today.
Maximum winds of approximately 85 knots, almost 100mph, with gusts to 100 knots or 115mph, were forecast for 6am, Paulette’s closest point of approach.
As the storm’s northern eyewall bore down on the island near 4am, thousands were without electricity across Bermuda.
Paulette’s direct hit was expected to coincide with high tide, making storm surge a potential factor.
Local waters are already 4in to 6in higher than usual, according to Steve Cosham, the national disaster coordinator, who said a hot water eddy in the seas around Bermuda had elevated the ocean surface.
The sixth named hurricane of this year’s unusually busy season, Paulette was on track to churn past the island as a Category 2 storm before veering to the northeast and into the Northern Atlantic.
Tracking the storm last night involved a first in collaboration between the Bermuda Weather Service and the United States National Hurricane Centre.
Mark Guishard, director of the BWS, said Bermuda’s radar and weather imagery was sufficiently comprehensive to be used in hourly position and intensity estimates given by the NHC.
Dr Guishard said this collaboration was “something they’ve not done before”.
He said it would “not only give us critical real-time information, leveraging our technology and their hurricane expertise — it will also help develop valuable insights for the post-storm analysis”.
Dr Guishard added that it depended on the communication between the two weather authorities remaining uninterrupted.
That announcement came shortly before the intensifying bands of storm-force winds around Paulette began to lash the island in earnest at 2.30am.
By 6am, the island was completely inside the eye of the hurricane, which the NHC said was 35 to 40 miles across.
Ms Ming, speaking at a press conference yesterday at 4pm, said: “A hurricane warning is in effect for the island as Paulette remains a threat to Bermuda.
“By now your preparations should be complete and you should be hunkering down to ride out the storm.”
The minister added: “We know that, for some, this can be an overwhelming time.
“So should anyone wish to seek support or comfort as we navigate through this, they can call the Emotional Well-being Hotline at 543-1111.”
She added: “To all of our residents — again, we’re still in a pandemic.
“Continue to exercise caution and common sense and please remember to engage in the right health and safety activities during this storm.”
Drivers were asked to be off the roads by 7pm, and the Causeway is on track to close at 9pm.
The Causeway is expected to reopen on Monday night or late Tuesday morning, after an assessment in Paulette’s wake.
The Emergency Measures Organisation will meet tomorrow afternoon, once the hurricane has passed, and will issue public updates.
Mr Cosham advised that the radio station 100,1FM would go live at 7pm.
Hurricane updates will be given on the top and bottom of the hour.
The Atlantic season has shown abundant storm activity this month.
That includes a system lingering well over 2,000 miles east-southeast of Bermuda, Tropical Depression 20, which built into Tropical Storm Teddy early this morning.
Teddy is on course later in the week to attain hurricane strength, and could begin tracking in Bermuda’s direction as a Category 3 hurricane.
But Mr Cosham cautioned against attempting to predict the path of a storm that was several days from getting anywhere near the island.
“Let’s just deal with one at a time,” he said.
“Once Paulette is over, come Wednesday or Thursday, we will have a look at the others.”
Mr Cosham added that once Paulette passed, emergency services would have a window of just a few hours to start clearing debris off the roads.
“It is unknown if the Regiment, Public Works and Parks Department will have finished clearing the roads Monday evening.
“Please do not use the road at night unless the all-clear has been given, as trees and branches will be down and there could be live wires in among them.”
He added: “It is difficult to see at night what you are dealing with.
“The Regiment, Public Works and Parks will clear a route from one end of the island to the other to allow the ambulance to respond to any emergency.
“This is their first mission. First responders will be on the road to relive staff that have been up for 36 hours dealing with the effects of the storm and collating information ready for the response and recovery.”
• To read the remarks from national security minister Renée Ming and national disaster coordinator Steve Cosham, click on the PDFs under “Related Media”