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UPDATE 2:30pm: Hurricane Paulette is expected to strengthen as it moves away from Bermuda, forecasters said Monday in their latest update on the storm.
Bermuda Weather Service officials downgraded their advisory from a hurricane warning to a tropical storm warning on Monday afternoon, although Paulette was continuing to produce wind gusts and heavy rainfall.
The US National Hurricane Center, in its 2pm advisory, said the Category 2 storm was building strength as it continued along a north-northeast path.
Earlier today, the Cayman Compass spoke with journalist Tari Trott, of the Bermuda Broadcasting Company, who said Paulette was lingering around a bit longer than weather forecasters had initially predicted.
“We’re still feeling hurricane-force winds … as Paulette slowly moves over the area, and we’re told by weather forecasters that more hurricane-force winds should persist until at least 4pm today,” he said.
While the storm moves further north, Trott said the island remains shut down, with schools, government offices, the airport and other facilities closed.
“Most businesses and even government offices have said that they will not reopen until possibly Wednesday,” he told the Compass in a telephone interview.
The storm is located about 115 miles north of Bermuda, according to the NHC, and has maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour.
In its 2pm bulletin, the NHC said Hurricane Paulette was moving toward the north-northeast at nearly 13 mph “and this general motion should continue into the early evening hours. A turn toward the northeast is expected later tonight, followed by a turn toward the east-northeast and an increase in forward speed Tuesday night through Thursday.”
Additional strengthening is likely through Tuesday night as Paulette accelerates northeastward to east-northeastward and gradual weakening is forecast to begin on Wednesday, the NHC reported.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.
Trott said there have been reports of minimal damage to structures in Bermuda.
At least 23,000 customers were without electricity, he said, adding that local emergency authorities were assessing the situation.
“The causeway, which is a critical bridge that links the east to the rest of the island and to the airport, was shut down late last night and remains closed.
“I get the sense that a lot of people were prepared. They did heed the warnings from the authorities to prepare and do what they had to do in advance of Paulette, and that people did take it seriously. Grocery stores were selling out of key items very quickly as of Saturday going into Sunday,” Trott said.
He said there was a concern over the postponement of advance election polling for senior citizens and those who need extra time to vote, which was expected to start this week. A general election is scheduled in Bermuda on 1 Oct.
Also today, the NHC recorded the 20th named storm of the 2020 hurricane season, Vicky. This storm is expected to be short-lived.
Original story: Although the eye of Hurricane Paulette was moving away from Bermuda Monday morning, hurricane-force winds and torrential rains associated with the southern eye wall of the now Category 2 storm are affecting the island.
Reports out of the island say thousands of residents have been left without power and a hurricane warning remains in effect.
The US National Hurricane Center, in its 8am advisory, said additional strengthening is likely when Paulette turns northeastward and moves away from Bermuda tonight through Tuesday.
Premier Premier David Burt, in a tweet on his official account, Monday morning, said he was advised that the hurricane is growing in size and intensity.
“It is now a strong Category 2 & still intensifying. There is a large band to our south and hurricane force winds are now not expected to abate until 3pm,” he said, as he advised residents to stay indoors.
A total of eight weather systems are being monitored at this time in the Atlantic basin, including five named storms (Rene, Sally, Teddy, Paulette and Vicky) and three potential tropical waves swirling in the region. None of these systems, on their present tracks, are expected to affect the Cayman Islands. However, residents are advised to monitor the progress of these systems.
The NHC said Hurricane Paulette was about 40 miles north of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 95 miles per hour. Its present movement remained north-northwest at 12 mph.
According to news site Bernews, the airport has been closed and all buses and ferries have been stopped. Local schools are closed Monday and Tuesday, as well as all government buildings.
The NHC said the centre of the eye of Hurricane Paulette was located over northeastern Bermuda.
“A turn toward the north is expected soon and should continue into this afternoon. A faster motion toward the northeast is expected by this evening and should continue through Wednesday. Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 95 mph with higher gusts,” it said in its advisory.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the centre and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles. Hurricane-force winds are returning as the southern portion of Paulette’s eye wall continues to move over the island.
Tropical-storm-force winds will continue possibly into the early afternoon across the entire island.
“Hurricane conditions are returning to Bermuda from the south and southwest as the southern eyewall passes over the island soon. Hurricane conditions should subside around mid-morning, but tropical storm conditions will persist into late-morning and possibly early afternoon.,” the NHC said.
It is warning that a dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding on Bermuda in areas of onshore winds. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves into this afternoon.
Between 3 and 6 inches of rainfall is expected in Bermuda.
Swells generated by Paulette are affecting portions of the Leeward Islands, the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the east coast of the United States. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, the NHC added in its report.