[tw-divider][/tw-divider] MIAMI, Florida, October 14, 2014 (AMG) — Tropical cyclone Gonzalo is now a major hurricane over the open Atlantic, and appears headed towards Bermuda after lashing the Eastern Caribbean with increasingly-strengthening winds and heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday.

Forecasters expect Gonzalo to increase in strength during the next few days as ocean temperatures remain warm, with the possibility of strengthening to a Category 4 hurricane – the strongest of the season thus far – within days. Data from Satellites have indicated that the maximum sustained winds have neared 115 mph, with the upper-limit of Category 4 storms reaching 156 mph.

Gonzalo’s damage: There have been no reported deaths or injuries as a result of Tropical Storm Gonzalo in Antigua and Barbuda. However, the island faced structural damage to homes and businesses due to heavy winds of 67 mph and gusts peaking at 88 mph.

Antiguan Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, stated that the storm’s damage exceeded his expectations, and noted that several Antiguans and Barbudans will require relief for destroyed roofs, as well as wind and water damage to homes.

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The wind was crazy …. #tropical #storm #gonzalo

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Floods and power outages forced a shutdown of the twin state on Monday. Residents reported that there were fallen trees, power lines and billboards, with many roofs blown off of homes in the wake of Gonzalo. Schools and business were closed and residents were asked to remain indoors unless absolutely necessary as the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) set out to manage a response to the effects of the storm.

Nearby, in St. Kitts-Nevis and the British Virgin Islands, Government offices and schools were also closed as authorities urged residents to remain indoors while the storm makes its way through the islands. Public schools in Puerto Rico were cancelled, as well as classes at the University of Puerto Rico’s Humacao campus.

Flights across the Caribbean were cancelled by LIAT, the regional airline, and cruise ships were forced to make changes in their schedules.

Gonzalo’s path: Gonzalo is moving northwest at 10 – 15 mph and is expected to continue this path through early Wednesday, after which it is expected to move north northwest later that day. Heavy rainfall is expected across Puerto Rico and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, which will also be affected by ocean swells throughout the day.

Eastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands are expected to be affected by possible life-threatening swells in the upcoming days as the centre of the hurricane passes nearby.

As of 11 am today, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida had not issued any watches or warnings for any territories.

Possible double-hit for Bermuda: After Tropical Storm Fay left over 8,000 residents of Bermuda without power on Monday, the island now faces the threat of being hit by Hurricane Gonzalo by the end of the week. Fay did not result in any fatalities, however there were reports of ten minor injuries, cancelled flights, closed public schools and suspended bus services.

Bermuda is no stranger to violent storms, and Premier Michael Dunkley is urging caution: “We have weathered storms before and are well versed in how to manage our homes and property. However, I urge people to err on the side of safety every time.” Government offices and public schools will be closed on Friday, with several businesses and private schools closing on Thursday. L.F. Wade International Airport is closing Thursday night.

As of late Thursday morning, Gonzalo was centered approximately 485 miles south-southwest of Bermuda, and moving north at 7 mph. Forecasters expect the hurricane to hit Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane, with wind speeds between 111 and 129 mph. Three to six inches of rain is expected, along with coastal flooding. However, forecasters warn that there is still uncertainty in the path and strength, and the island should be prepared for the worst hurricane since Fabian in 2003.

Update 5:00 pm, October 16: The center of Hurricane Gonzalo is currently about 75 miles south-southwest of Bermuda. According to the National Hurricane Center, near hurricane force winds are already buffeting the small island, and gusts near 120 mph can be expected. 35-40 foot waves are just offshore and moving towards land.

Update 11:00 am, October 16: Gonzalo is currently a powerful Category 3 hurricane, with winds of 130 mph. It is expected to make a direct hit on Bermuda this evening, coinciding with high tide. Several inches of rain and several hours of damaging winds are expected, and Bermuda has prepared by closing down offices, opening shelters, and stopping bus and ferry transportation.

Gonzalo reaches catastrophic strength en route to Bermuda

Sophia Longsworth

Sophia is a Grenadian residing in the United States. She holds an MPH and an MSc. in Natural Resource and Environmental Management, and has research interests in the impact of the environment on public health.

Category: Sustainability