The Royal Gazette
Thursday October 13, 2016 Nicole live: ‘dangerous’ storm now Category 4
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Midnight update: defying earlier expectations, Hurricane Nicole has intensified significantly, ramping into a major Category 4 storm.
According to the National Hurricane Centre, the storm should weaken as it draws near Bermuda, but the latest update belies previous forecasts.
Nicole now has sustained winds of 130mph. The eye of the hurricane is sharply defined and some 35 miles wide, and is expected to pass over the island.
The latest ranking put Nicole in the “extremely dangerous” category, according to the NHC. Its increased strength was spotted by Hurricane Hunters aircraft earlier in the night.
Nicole is predicted to be a Category 3 storm by the time it reaches the island, but residents are advised to keep close watch over what will very likely be a major hurricane.
Hurricane Fabian passed the island in 2003 as a Category 3 storm, with winds of 120mph.
As the island readies itself, the Royal Bermuda Regiment has mustered a contingent of 140 troops to swing into action in Nicole’s aftermath: there are four immediate response teams stationed at Warwick Camp, with another based on the St George’s side of the Causeway to cover the East End.
The Causeway closed at 11.06pm.
The East End soldiers are also bolstered with a team from the RBR’s Boat Troop, which will evacuate casualties to Grotto Bay for ambulance pick-up if the Causeway is impassable.
Earlier tonight, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said that while the Bermuda Weather Service had been confident of the storm’s path from the beginning, they were “a bit uncertain as to its strength — right now it’s on the upper border”.
“Hurricanes are fickle in nature. We should prepare for the potential that it may vary from estimates. I would like to assure the people of Bermuda that we have done everything necessary to prepare us, and I would urge calm. For now, we should hunker down and get rest. I wouldn’t want people worrying about what it could be. This is when we come together as a people and look after each other.”
Mr Dunkley earlier visited the emergency shelter at CedarBridge Academy, and will call on the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre later before visiting the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, to thank all staff.
“While some of us might be with family or friends, all these workers are not at home,” he said. “They are out there taking care of our needs.”
In the storm’s wake, soldiers at Warwick Camp will be deployed after detailed reconnaissance and risk assessments, according to Regiment Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel David Curley.
“They will be tasked to go west and east of Warwick Camp to initially start clearing roads.
“This is one of our main tasks — it’s something we do really well and we’re fully certified and well rehearsed to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane.”
Hurricane winds should commence tomorrow at about dawn and persist until evening, according to the BWS. If the storm strikes at a Category 3 intensity, damage to buildings and downing of trees is a strong possibility.
Mr Dunkley said he appreciated residents might be “anxious about what’s ahead — it’s a little slower and bigger than expected”.
“People should get all the rest they can. When they wake up, the storm will be on their doorsteps.”
Hamilton was busy all day, with hardware stores doing a brisk trade.
Shutters were bolted and plywood secured over windows as preparations neared the final stretch.
The BWS gave a frank warning for residents to expect “strong winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms, possible tornadoes, and dangerous surf and rip currents, with storm surge building six to eight feet on top of very high seas”.
Former firefighter Shawn Grant had these words of advice: “If it gets particularly rough, go to the bathroom. The bathroom is the strongest part of the house.”
Earlier today Mr Grant, now a floor manager at Master’s, noted a rapid sale of generators, with a steady stream of customers buying essential storm items.
Tropical storm-force winds will commence later tonight, which concurred with the predictions of St David’s resident Chris Flook, speaking with this newspaper.
Noting that tides would be high just before 7am as Nicole draws near, Mr Flook said: ““It is just a slow-moving, long storm. That is the frustrating thing because you want to go out and fix stuff — but you have got to wait it out.”
He planned to be awake at 4am, “more than likely nail-biting, hearing the rattling and waiting for it to come.”
As of 6pm, a West End resident reported that “a lot more houses have been boarded up” since this morning.
While shops were busy, the roads had noticeably emptied.
“Some appear to be going about their daily business, walking and jogging along South Shore. Others were out watching the surf from the vantage points along the road.”
At Devonshire Bay Park, onlookers were being treated to impressive surf as the South Shore began to bear the brunt of powerful swells pushed far ahead of Nicole, which has been boosted by the unusually warm seas.
With Nicole coming less than three weeks after Tropical Storm Karl threatened the island, residents knew the drill and prepared swiftly.
Schools closed early today, with more than a few parents choosing to keep their children at home, as St George’s Preparatory School principal Mary Lodge observed.
In the East End, seas were building at the Fort St Catherine beach early in the day, St George’s MP Kenneth Bascome told The Royal Gazette.
“Town is pretty well boarded up,” he said. “Everybody has their shutters up but they are still operating.”
Mr Dunkley commended the island’s preparation efforts, thanking national security minister Jeffrey Baron, Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva, and the Emergency Measures Organisation, for a “tremendous job getting the message out the last couple of days”.
Outlining clean-up procedures planned for tomorrow, Colonel Curley said the regiment would aim to “unblock roads to ensure that emergency service vehicles can move freely”.
He added: “If we didn’t go out there right away when it is deemed safe, it would take a lot longer to clear these roads and there might be severe casualties that need immediate treatment at the hospital.
“Our other main task is to support the Bermuda Police Service with reassurance patrols, and our Operational Support Unit is tasked for this role.
“It’s a Category 2 storm — a strong Category 2, and it’s slow-moving. We won’t know what we’ll find when we deploy out of the gates of Warwick Camp, but we are trained in all aspects of this kind of work and very experienced. We did very well with Fay and Gonzalo two years ago.”
He added that soldiers based in the East End will also check the airport runway to ensure that it is clear of potentially dangerous debris, to allow flights in and out to resume as soon as possible.
“We are Bermuda’s insurance policy and we intend to live up to our promise to protect and serve our community,” Colonel Curley said in closing.