Hurricane Gonzalo continues to head towards the isolated Atlantic Ocean island of Bermuda.
Gonzalo made a glancing blow across the northern Leeward Islands on Monday and overnight into Tuesday. The islands of St Maarten, where one person was killed, and Anguilla, where 12 people were injured, were worst hit.
Moving northwestwards, Gonzalo took advantage of high sea temperatures and light wind shear to develop into a Category 4 hurricane, on the five point Saffir-Simpson scale. Sustained winds of 215 kph made it the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Ophelia in October 2011.
Gonzalo is only the second major hurricane of the 2014 season, Edouard being the other. (A major hurricane is Category 3 or above, with winds of at least 178 kph.)
Gonzalo is now expected to move northeastwards as it gets swept along by a trough of low pressure emerging from North America.
Consequently, Gonzalo is expected to make a very close approach to Bermuda around 1800GMT on Friday.
The latest computer forecasts from our preferred forecast centres suggest Gonzalo will pass some 80 to 160 km to the west of Bermuda. If this is the case, then hurricane force winds, extending between 50 and 70 km from the hurricane’s centre, will miss Bermuda. This will leave the island in the 250 km zone of tropical storm force winds of 63 kph or above.
It must be emphasized that the predicted track of Gonzalo is subject to enough of a margin of error for the island to remain at risk of hurricane force winds, but a near miss does seem to the likely outcome for Bermuda.
Gonzalo’s imminent arrival comes less than one week after Tropical Storm Fay brought winds of 112 kph, which brought down trees and power lines, leaving half the island without electricity.
On average, Bermuda can expect to feel the force of a tropical cyclone about once every two years. Two such storms in less than a week is almost unprecedented.