Bermuda braces as weaker Hurricane Bill approaches

Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:45pm EDT
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By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

HAMILTON (Reuters) - Bermuda advised its residents on Friday to stay off the streets to avoid rain, battering surf and flooding as Hurricane Bill, weakened but still a powerful storm, followed a path between the island and the U.S. East Coast.

The core of the large hurricane was expected to stay over the open Atlantic as it passes west of Bermuda early on Saturday and east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts early on Sunday, before starting to skirt eastern Canada later on Sunday.

Bill could threaten some oil and natural gas platforms and refineries in eastern Canada.

Officials from the Canadian Hurricane Center said they expect the storm to pass along Nova Scotia's eastern shore on Sunday and hit southeastern areas of Newfoundland and Labrador on Sunday night or early Monday morning.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Bill, the first hurricane of the 2009 Atlantic season, had become a little less organized and its maximum sustained winds had dropped slightly to near 105 mph.

It was a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity and its strength was expected to fluctuate in the next day or two.

Shops and businesses closed early in Bermuda to allow people in the 20 square mile (53 sq km) British territory, which is a center for the global insurance industry, to go home and prepare for Bill's passing 230 miles to the west.

The Bermuda weather service said Bill's storm tide would raise water levels by as much as 3 feet (1 meter) above ground level along the coast, and cause "large and dangerous battering waves".   Continued...

<p>Hurricane Bill is pictured moving in the Altantic Ocean in this satellite image taken August 21, 2009. REUTERS/NOAA/Handout</p>