Hurricane Gonzalo regained strength on Thursday and looks set to hit Bermuda today as at least a Category 3 storm and with an epicentre within 25 miles of the island – much closer than originally thought.
The storm will pass to the west of the island, and severe storm surges are a threat to the south coast – where the main tourist beach resorts are located.
Tropical Storm Fay hit the island last week and severely disrupted power supplies, making preparation for the forthcoming strike more difficult. Fay hit with 70mph winds, but Gonzalo's could be strong enough to test Bermuda buildings' high standards of hurricane resistance.
Extra flights were scheduled off Bermuda on Thursday evening, with the airport set to close for all of Friday.
The reinsurance gathering in Baden Baden starts this weekend, with many Bermudian executives planning to attend.
The last Category 3 storm to hit Bermuda was Fabian in 2003, causing $300m in damage. Gonzalo looks set at least to match the impact of Fabian, and could exceed it.
Catastrophe modeller AIR Worldwide said Thursday evening that prices for contractors were already rising in Bermuda in anticipation of Gonzalo. The trees, branches and coconuts already downed by Fay last weekend add to the potential damage that could be caused by Gonzalo's hurricane strength winds.
Scott Stransky, manager and principal scientist at AIR Worldwide, said that the new hurricane could bring three to six inches of rain, and warned that winds at elevated locations and on the windward sides of the hills could be accelerated significantly.
Although Bermuda's building code is strict and well-enforced, with wood-frame buildings rare on the island and few buildings more than six storeys high, the code only requires resistance of sustained winds up to 110mph and gusts up to 150mph. "Hurricane Gonzalo will put to test Bermuda's building code with a close bypass as a Category 3 hurricane", AIR said.
Loss adjuster Cunningham Lindsey has a team of eight adjusters in place. Ben Price, the adjuster’s London catastrophe coordinator, said that "being on the ground ahead of the event is vital". He noted that hurricane Fabian put Bermuda's LF Wade International Airport out of commission for some time. and that the airport could be closed for several days.
Earlier this week Gonzalo killed one person and injured 12 others, causing structural damage to homes on St. Maarten, Antigua and other Caribbean islands.
AIR Worldwide noted that winds of up to 88mph damaged a luxury hotel on the west coast of Antigua, blew off roof coverings, and caused severe damage to the island’s farms. Meanwhile, several cruise ships from Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean cruise lines have cancelled trips or changed their itineraries.