Igor passes near Bermuda as Category 1 hurricane

Published 5:07 pm Monday, September 20, 2010

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 weakened to just above hurricane status before its center passed about 40 miles to the west just before midnight. Winds of 75 mph battered the island, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said gusts ranged up to 93 mph.

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By midday Monday, the hurricane’s center was about 275 miles north-northeast of Bermuda and it was heading to the north-northeast at 24 mph, the Hurricane Center reported.

A tropical storm watch was issued for the coast of Newfoundland in Canada.

Igor was predicted to veer northeast away from the United States, although forecasters said it would still cause high surf and strong 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.

In Bermuda, wind toppled trees and utility poles and drove some boats aground. In Somerset, at the western end of the island, two sailboats and a fishing vessel with a large holes in its side were learning against the shore.

Islanders said the impact did not compare with Hurricane Fabian, which killed four people when it hit Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane in 2003.

“This was a powder puff compared to Fabian,” Claude Wright, 67, said as he surveyed the damage.

Richard Simons, who rents out cottages near Elbow Beach, said he found only downed branches on his property Monday morning.

“It will just take some sweeping and raking to clean up,” he said.

Bermuda’s power utility reported that roughly 19,500 customers lost electricity Sunday on the British territory of 68,000 inhabitants.

Before Igor arrived, some storm-seasoned Bermudians ventured outside to marvel as 15-foot (5-meter) surf crashed ashore, even through the government warned people to stay indoors, keeping in mind that the high surf kicked up by Igor earlier swept two people out to sea in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, far to the south.

While many tourists hopped on flights home before the airport closed Saturday, Elaine and Brian LaFleur of New Bedford, Massachusetts, said they actually moved up their arrival so they would be here when Igor hit. 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.

Hotel cancellations were reported across Bermuda, an island about 600 miles off the U.S. coast that is popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.

Bermuda’s building codes specify that homes must be built with walls at least eight inches thick, and be able to withstand 150 mph gusts and sustained winds of 110 mph. Some power and phone lines are underground.

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

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.