Hamilton, Bermuda–September 15th, 2020–Hurricane Paulette, as forecast, went right over Bermuda yesterday morning with the eye of the hurricane over the islands for more than two hours, giving the impression that perhaps the storm has passed by.
But the worst was still to come as the second part of the hurricane strengthened to hurricane category 2 and whiplashed the islands with torrential rain and winds that blew down trees and utility poles, causing many road blockages.
The Royal Gazette reported that the islands had kept a stiff upper lip and were “battered but unbowed”.
The Minister of National Security, Renee Ming requested businesses to delay opening their establishments until 12 noon.
Minister Ming explained, “We are still having considerable challenges with clearing debris from the roads, and our work crews will need time to remove poles, downed lines and trees without being impeded.
We are encouraging employers to work with us by delaying opening until 12.00 pm when we feel it will be safe for their employees and other commuters to travel the roads.”
Bermuda took a direct hit yesterday from Hurricane Paulette, the Royal Gazette reported, which knocked out power to about 23,000 homes across the island by daybreak.
David Burt, the Premier, said last night: “After a day and night of high winds, driving rain and exceptional waves, we are on the other side of Hurricane Paulette, thankfully without any loss of life, serious personal injury and less damage to property than we might have expected. We have weathered the storm.”
Maximum winds of about 100mph were predicted, with gusts of up to 115mph. The hurricane passed slowly with an usual lull as the eye moved over.
Bands of hurricane-strength winds and gusts of more than 100mph followed until later than the predicted window of 3am to 10am.
Power cuts hit more than 25,000 of Belco’s 36,000 metered customers across the island by noon.
The island has faced worse outages — the double whammy of hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo put more than 31,000 homes in the dark in October 2014.
But this year’s recovery effort was hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, which made help from Caribbean agencies impossible.
The Government warned that social-distancing to protect against Covid-19 may also hinder recovery in the wake of Paulette, which trailed 75mph winds until midafternoon yesterday.
Mr Burt said last night that power had been restored to about 9,000 affected homes.
The sixth named hurricane of a busy season developed as Tropical Storm Teddy formed bout 2,000 miles east-southeast of the island early yesterday.
Early models suggested Teddy would build into a hurricane as early as today and curve towards Bermuda later this week.
But Mr Burt said: “We shouldn’t make any assumptions about what may or may not happen as we recognize that storms are unpredictable, but I think that what this storm, Paulette, has shown us is that we have a very well-thought-out process.”
He added: “I have no doubt that if the Bermuda Weather Service feels free to issue any additional warnings, the country will take heed and we will be ready.”
The tracking of the storm also marked a first in teamwork between the United States National Hurricane Centre and the Bermuda Weather Service.
The NHC reported that Bermuda’s radar and weather imagery were comprehensive enough to be used in its hourly position and intensity estimates. Forecasts continued until the radar went offline early in the storm as the eye wall of the hurricane began to come ashore at 3am.
St. Kitts and Nevis Observer readers were able to observe some of the effects of the storm via a link to a Web cam at the naval dockyard in Bermuda.
Bermuda has a long history with Atlantic hurricanes and following extensive damage by hurricane Emily in 1987 and other hurricanes, underwent an extensive program of burying utility cables underground and trimming trees. All buildings in Bermuda are made of concrete blocks and stucco, many have built-in storm shutters, and there are no mobile-home type residential units or corrugated iron roofs that would be more vulnerable to storm force winds.