Hurricane Heads to Newfoundland

.c The Associated Press

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland (AP) (Sept. 22, 99) - A weakened Hurricane Gert picked up speed and hurtled Wednesday toward the Canadian coast of Newfoundland, prompting some offshore oil rigs to stop operating.

At 5 p.m., Gert's winds had dropped to 85 mph and extended outward up to 115 miles. The eye of the storm was about 415 miles south-southwest of St. John's in Newfoundland.

The hurricane was moving north-northeast at about 28 mph on a path that would take it east of Newfoundland, passing the Avalon peninsula early Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in Miami.

Gert was expected to weaken more over the next 24 hours but gain speed as it continued in the same general direction.

In Newfoundland, workers on offshore rigs prepared for gale and storm-force winds. Some rigs stopped drilling and nonessential workers were taken to land as a precautionary measure.

Monday night and Tuesday, the hurricane brushed Bermuda with the outer edge of winds blowing at speeds of up to 110 mph, whipping up punishing waves that smashed the walls of seaside cottages and washed away three miles of prime beach.

The storm uprooted trees and washed out roads on Bermuda, and about 11,000 people suffered temporary power outages, according to police spokeswoman Evelyn James Barnett.

Hundreds of visitors fled the popular island before the storm, and others canceled reservations, hurting the tourism business.

AP-NY-09-22-99 1709EDT


Hurricane Gert Takes Aim at Bermuda


.c The Associated Press

HAMILTON, Bermuda (Sept. 21) - Hurricane Gert whipped up battering waves that inundated low-lying areas of Bermuda today, toppling part of a house into the sea and making some seaside roads impassable even as it began turning away from the island far out in the Atlantic.

Wind gusts up to 74 mph were reported in Bermuda, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said, but islanders were not overly concerned.

''We're faring well here and it looks like we'll only just get gusts of hurricane force (winds) during the day. It looks like its turning before we get the worst,'' said meteorologist Mark Guishard of the Bermuda Weather Service.

''It's blowing pretty good and raining and expected to get a little worse but I think we'll be all right,'' said David Walmsley, controller of the Hamilton Princess Hotel on the harbor adjacent to downtown Hamilton.

Guishard said a few vulnerable areas of the island were inundated by high, battering waves and storm surges that flooded some seaside roads. Police spokeswoman Evelyn James Barnett said two rooms of a house in exclusive Tucker's Town, on the east coast, tumbled into the sea overnight. The family had been evacuated earlier.

She said police had warned more than 700 people to leave their homes, but was not sure how many complied. ''We haven't had any reports of people at the main emergency shelter, but I don't know how many moved in with their families,'' she told The Associated Press.

''There's no major damage so far - the occasional power line outage but the winds are picking up,'' she said.

At 11 a.m., Gert's center was about 135 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and moving north at about 13 mph. Winds near 110 mph extended up to 140 miles from the storm's center. Storm surges of up to 5 feet were projected for Bermuda, but the storm was expected to weaken and turn gradually to the north-northeast, the hurricane center said.

On Monday, police warned people in low-lying areas to evacuate their homes and two schools were turned into emergency shelters. Islanders stocked up on emergency supplies.

Gert is the biggest storm to threaten Bermuda since 1987, when Hurricane Emily hit, moved offshore, and then struck again.

Cruise ships diverted to other ports and several flights were canceled Monday. Hundreds of tourists fled before the airport closed Tuesday and an already struggling tourist industry began counting the cost of cancellations from its biggest market - the United States.

''We've lost business, including group bookings, particularly after the progress of the hurricane was broadcast on U.S. networks,'' said Norm Masilar, general manager of the island's biggest hotel, the Southampton Princess.

Earlier in the week, Gert had top winds of up to 145 mph, making the system the fourth Category 4 storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

AP-NY-09-21-99 1151EDT


Gert Takes Aims at Bermuda


.c The Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) - (Sept. 20, 99) Bermuda was under a tropical storm warning early today as Hurricane Gert moved closer, while western Florida prepared for rain and wind stirred up by Tropical Storm Harvey.

At 8 a.m. EDT, Hurricane Gert was 350 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and moving to the northwest at nearly 13 mph. Its top sustained winds had slowed to 120 mph, but Bermuda remained under a hurricane watch issued by the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm was expected to make a gradual turn to the north-northwest.

Bermuda residents began heading to grocery stores for supplies Sunday.

``It's a threat to Bermuda. ... It's a strong storm,'' said public safety minister Paula Cox.

The last time Bermuda suffered major damage from a hurricane was in 1987, when Hurricane Emily hit the island, moved offshore, then struck again.

Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico, the tropical depression circulating there became Tropical Storm Harvey late Sunday. Its top sustained winds were nearly 45 mph early today, with some strengthening expected.

A tropical storm watch was issued for much of Florida's western coast, from the Suwanee River north of Cedar Key to Bonita Springs north of Naples.

At 8 a.m. EDT, the center of Harvey was 225 miles west-southwest of St. Petersburg. The storm was moving east-northeast at 10 mph. Forecasters warned that it could bring several inches of rain to central Florida by Tuesday.

Harvey could come ashore north of Tampa, cross Florida on Tuesday, then shoot into the Atlantic with 60 mph winds, hurricane specialist Brian Jarvinen said.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Hilary made its debut Sunday off the coast of Mexico but was expected to weaken. It was more than 200 miles southwest of Baja California, traveling to the northwest at about 12 mph.

AP-NY-09-20-99 0956EDT


Gert's Threat to Bermuda Increases


.c The Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) -Sept. 18, 1999 -  Hurricane Gert's threat to Bermuda rose Saturday with the advent of a cold front along the eastern United States that was expected to push the storm on a course towards the island.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Gert, a Category 3 hurricane, was heading northwest at about 10 mph, with top sustained winds of 120 mph and some higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was about 735 miles southeast of Bermuda.

The cold front was expected to create a trough over the waters of the western Atlantic that could force Gert to turn to the northwest, then to the north, according to Lixion Avila, a hurricane specialist at the hurricane center here.

Gert was projected to reach a point about 150 miles southeast of Bermuda within 72 hours, Avila said.

``If it continues a fourth day, it could be over Bermuda'' on Wednesday, he said late Saturday.

The same cold front that was expected to push Gert on a more direct path toward Bermuda also was expected to put the eastern United States farther from danger, Avila said.

Gert, about 500 miles wide Saturday, earlier in the week had top winds of up to 145 mph, making the system the fourth Category 4 storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. That season runs from June 1 through November 30.

AP-NY-09-18-99 1804EDT


Hurricane Gert Gains Strength


.c The Associated Press

MIAMI (Sept. 17, 99) - Growing slightly stronger with top sustained winds of 140 mph, Hurricane Gert spun in the Atlantic today on a track forecasters said could take it toward Bermuda early next week - but away from the East Coast.

Gert - which became the fourth Category 4 hurricane of the Atlantic season with 145 mph winds on Thursday - was about 1,040 miles south-southeast of Bermuda at 5 a.m. EDT today.

''Right now it looks like Gert is going to move toward the northwest, northeast of the Leeward Islands over the next day or two, and is headed in the general direction of Bermuda,'' said Daniel Brown, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Gert could pose a threat to Bermuda by late Sunday or Monday, Brown said.

The hurricane was about 400 miles wide with a distinct eye and could widen as the storm enters the same atmospheric conditions of weak upper-level winds and warm ocean temperatures that produced Hurricane Floyd's huge proportions this week.

Gert was moving west-northwest at near 10 mph and was expected to remain fairly steady in strength the next 24 hours.

AP-NY-09-17-99 0641EDT