Hurricane Center: Humberto far from land, but Gabrielle buzzes Bermuda

US National Hurricane Center reports tropical storm Humberto is nearing hurricane speeds far out in the Atlantic, while tropical storm Gabrielle hit at Bermuda with wind, rain and rough surf late Tuesday.

Courtesy of NASA / Reuters
Tropical storm Humberto swirls in the eastern Atlantic, Sept. 10. Forecasters predict Humberto will attain hurricane status soon, but it remains far from land.

The US National Hurricane Center reports tropical storm Gabrielle hit at Bermuda with wind, rain and rough surf late Tuesday as its center headed for a close pass by the wealthy British territory after reforming earlier in the day over the Atlantic. Farther east out in the Atlantic, tropical storm Humberto was nearly a hurricane as its maximum sustained winds increased to 70 mph (110 kph). It currently poses no threat to land.

The Hurricane Center, based in Miami, said Gabrielle's center was about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda late Tuesday and moving northward with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph). It was expected to pass near or just west of Bermuda during the night.

Government authorities had urged Bermudans to finish last-minute preparations, and some residents left work early. Customers crowded into supermarkets to buy candles, batteries and other emergency supplies.

"Gabrielle has proven somewhat unpredictable and so I caution everyone to take this storm seriously and to prepare for the forecast conditions," Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley said.

The territory suspended ferry service Tuesday afternoon as wind and rain picked up, and officials announced that schools would be closed Wednesday. Airline flights were cancelled Tuesday.

British visitors Tom and Laura Palmer said they were stuck in Bermuda until Thursday because British Airways cancelled inbound and outbound flights to the island until the stormy weather cleared.

"We don't mind staying a few more days despite the weather," said Tom Palmer, a resident of Crawley, England. British Airways "are paying, so we're fine."

Local painter Coolridge Eve said he was mostly unconcerned about the storm but he had earlier checked a shark oil-based barometer that Bermudians traditionally use to gauge rough weather.

"I looked at my shark oil this morning; it told me something was brewing up. How close it is, I don't really know, but I'm ready," Eve said.

Bermuda, an offshore financial haven and tourist destination, has strong building codes and residents are accustomed to storms.

U.S. forecasters said Gabrielle was likely to drop 2 to 4 inches (6-13 centimeters) of rain on the island, with up to 6 inches (18 centimeters) possible in isolated spots. Storm surge of up to 3 feet (nearly 1 meter) above normal tide levels was predicted.

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