Hurricane Igor Spares Bermuda its Worst

Workers at Elbow Beach secure rooftop equipment as Hurricane Igor approaches in Paget Parish, Bermuda, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010. The government warns that Hurricane Igor could be the strongest storm to affect the British territory in more than 50 years. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said tropical storm winds will start battering Bermuda Saturday night, with the hurricane expected to pass near Bermuda early Monday. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Last Updated 12:01 p.m. ET

Hurricane Igor swept past Bermuda and kept lashing at the Atlantic island with high winds and furious waves on Monday as power failures in many areas plunged people hunkered down at home into darkness.

The storm knocked boats from their moorings and littered the tiny British territory with downed trees and branches, but there were no reports of major damage or injuries.

Igor's center passed about 40 miles to the west of Bermuda just before midnight. But even the near-miss was a problem, since hurricane-force winds extended up to 90 miles from the eye.

Sustained winds were clocked at 75 mph as Igor neared the island, although a gust of 93 mph was reported, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Rainfall was predicted to be at six to nine inches, with a storm surge that could produce significant coastal flooding, reports "Early Show" weather anchor Dave Price.

Heavy rains and winds from the storm, downgraded to a Category 1 just before dawn Sunday, whipped trees and power lines, knocking out electricity to almost 20,000 people on this wealthy British enclave of 68,000.

By midday Monday, the hurricane's center was about 275 miles north-northeast of Bermuda, picking up speed as it headed north-northeast at 24 mph, with winds of 75 mph.

CBS News 2010 Storm Tracker

The storm is expected to veer northeast, away from the United States. But forecasters said it would continue causing high surf and "life-threatening" rip currents along the U.S. Eastern seaboard.

A 21-year-old man died while surfing in the storm-churned waves off Surf City, N.C, where he was pulled from the water on Sunday afternoon.

The National Weather Service in New York City said Igor is likely to churn up breaking waves of 6 to 10 feet Monday as it passes about 600 miles from the eastern tip of Long Island. A high surf advisory was issued for the city through Tuesday morning.

A tropical storm watch has been issued for Newfoundland.

The streets of Hamilton, Bermuda's capital, were under several inches of water and littered with tree branches and other debris.

But there were no early reports of major damage.

"We're certainly getting our money's worth in drama," lawyer James Dodi said while standing outside a hotel in downtown Hamilton watching Igor's winds whip through palm trees and howl around buildings.

Dodi, 43, a native of Toronto who moved from Canada six years ago, left his Hamilton home and took refuge at the hotel, where he hoped the power would hold out through the storm.

"Safety first," said resident Andrew Scaive. "We can always rebuild. As Bermudians, we already know how to rebuild."

In fact, Bermuda has a strict building code. Homes must have walls at least eight inches thick - able to withstand winds of 110 mph.

For the most part it was tourists who ventured out to watch the hurricane.

"I'm not scared at all," said Canadian visitor Cathy Smodlaka. "I just think it's an awesome force of nature, that if you can experience it once in a lifetime, then that is something amazing."

Bermuda officials will be out in force today to assess the damage - but so far, there's no word of any serious injuries.

On Sunday some storm-seasoned islanders ventured outside during the day to gawk as the hurricane force winds that hit by midday drove 15-foot surf onto shore or to triple-tie the moorings of their boats even as the government warned people to stay indoors.

Most tourists hopped on flights home before the airport closed Saturday afternoon, but Elaine and Brian LaFleur of New Bedford, Massachusetts, said they actually changed the date of their flight so they would make it to Bermuda in advance of Igor. They wanted a new experience for their 28th trip to the island.

"We've done everything else on this island, but we've never experienced a hurricane," said Elaine LaFleur, 62.

The couple's original itinerary had them arriving Sunday but they flew in Friday.

Brian LeFleur, 66, said the couple was staying busy indoors playing games on their iPad. He had hoped to watch Sunday football but the cable television at their hotel in downtown Hamilton lost its signal.

Jah Simmons, 25, and Gregory Wilson, 36, headed into downtown Hamilton after their homes lost power.

Both said they were relieved that the storm was not stronger. "It's a blessing in my mind," Simmons said.

Igor lost strength and was downgraded from a Category 2 hurricane before dawn Sunday, raising optimism that Bermuda would be spared major damage.

"We prayed that the storm would be downgraded, and it looks like our prayers have been answered," said Fred Swan, a 52-year-old teacher.

As the hurricane bore down, most islanders hunkered down in their homes and listened to the howling winds and cracking thunder outside.

School principal Marion Dyer, 47, said she holed up with her 8-year-old daughter and two others after losing power around dawn, when Igor's outer bands began severely whipping Bermuda.

"Now and again we get bursts of wild wind which sends the rain in all directions," Dyer wrote in an e-mail to an AP reporter. "We have heard several rolls of thunder which are becoming more frequent."

Premier Ewart Brown said islanders "have been forced to recognize that the ocean is not so vast and Bermuda not so unique as to be separated from the awesome power of nature."

Hotel cancellations were reported across Bermuda, popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.

But some islanders checked into resorts to ride out the storm. At the Fairmont Hamilton Princess hotel near the capital's downtown, about half of the 410 rooms were occupied, said Jonathan Crellin, the hotel's general manager.

"The hotel is locked down tight and ready to take Igor when he arrives in full," Crellin said from the hotel, which like most buildings in the territory is built of solid concrete.

High surf kicked up by the storm has already swept two people out to sea in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, far to the south.

Forecasters said the storm could drop 6 to 9 inches of rain over Bermuda and cause significant coastal flooding.

Officials said schools would be closed Monday and Tuesday, and a local newspaper canceled its Monday edition.

In Mexico on Sunday, officials raised to 12 the death toll from Hurricane Karl, which made landfall on Mexico's Gulf Coast on Friday and soaked Veracruz, Puebla and Tabasco states in the south-central part of the country.

At least 30,000 people were displaced by flooding and landslides in Veracruz alone, according to a report from the Civil Protection agency.

Gov. Fidel Herrera said 125 municipalities were in a state of emergency.

Also in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Julia was beginning to fizzle as it swirled about 1,100 west of the Azores with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph.
  • CBSNews

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now