MIAMI: Hurricane Gonzalo gained strength in the Atlantic on Thursday (Friday in Manila) as it barreled toward Bermuda, which was bracing for a hit from the powerful Category Four storm.
Gonzalo’s winds were whirling at 230 kilometers (145 miles) per hour, with even stronger gusts, taking it back up a notch on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, the US National Hurricane Center said.
It was expected to pass on Friday (Saturday in Manila) near Bermuda, which could see flooding along the coast. Gonzalo, which has already killed one person in the Caribbean, triggered a hurricane warning for the British overseas territory.
Forecasters urged people in Bermuda to prepare for the expected arrival of the storm.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion today,” the NHC said.
The archipelago’s premier Michael Dunkley said government offices and schools would be closed on Friday in the grouping of islands home to about 60,000 people.
“We should expect at least 24 hours of storm force winds,” Dunkley said in a statement.
“During this time I want to encourage everyone to stay inside, and particularly off the roads,” he added.
The international airport was expected to shutter from late on Thursday until at least Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
At 11 p.m. Manila time (on Thursday), the storm was located about 665 kilometers (415 miles south-southwest of Bermuda. It was moving north at 15 kilometers (nine miles) per hour, according to the Miami-based NHC.
Forecasters stressed that major hurricanes like Gonzalo tend to fluctuate in strength.
The storm could weaken later on Thursday and on Friday, but Gonzalo is on track to be a “dangerous hurricane” when it moves near Bermuda, the NHC said.
The NHC noted that elevated and hilly terrain could face especially strong winds, since wind speeds atop and on the windward sides can often be up to 30 percent stronger than at the surface.