Hamilton: Fierce waves pounded Bermuda`s shores and strained yacht moorings late Sunday as winds tore at trees and signs while a weakened Hurricane Igor passed just west of the wealthy British enclave.
Bermudians stayed battened down in their homes in a pelting rain to wait out Igor, which was barely a Category 1 hurricane. Its sustained winds were clocked at 75 mph (120 kph) as Igor neared the island, although a gust of 93 mph was reported, the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said.
The wind whipsawed trees and power poles, knocking out electricity in many parts of the island. But there were no early reports of major damage.
"We`re certainly getting our money`s worth in drama," lawyer James Dodi said while standing outside a hotel in downtown Hamilton watching Igor`s winds whip through palm trees and howl around buildings.
Dodi, 43, a native of Toronto who moved from Canada six years ago, left his Hamilton home and took refuge at the hotel, where he hoped the power would hold out through the storm.
Some storm-seasoned islanders ventured outside during the day to gawk as the hurricane force winds that hit by midday drove 15-foot (5-meter) surf onto shore or to triple-tie the moorings of their boats even as the government warned people to stay indoors.
Flooding was reported in low-lying areas, while streets in downtown Hamilton, the capital, were covered in several inches of water and littered with tree branches and other debris.
Igor`s eye passed about 40 miles west of Bermuda before midnight, the US hurricane centre said. But even the near-miss was a problem, since hurricane-force winds extended up to 90 miles (150 kilometres) from the eye.
The storm was expected to veer northeast — away from the United States — after passing Bermuda. But forecasters said it would continue causing high surf and strong rip currents along the US eastern seaboard.
Most tourists hopped on flights home before the airport closed on Saturday afternoon, but Elaine and Brian LaFleur of New Bedford, Massachusetts, said they actually changed the date of their flight so they would make it to Bermuda in advance of Igor. They wanted a new experience for their 28th trip to the island.
"We`ve done everything else on this island, but we`ve never experienced a hurricane," said Elaine LaFleur, 62.
The couple`s original itinerary had them arriving on Sunday but they flew in Friday.
Brian LeFleur, 66, said the couple was staying busy indoors playing games on their iPad. He had hoped to watch Sunday football but the cable television at their hotel in downtown Hamilton lost its signal.
Bermuda`s power utility reported that roughly 19,500 customers were without electricity by Sunday evening on the British territory of 68,000 inhabitants.
Jah Simmons, 25, and Gregory Wilson, 36, headed into downtown Hamilton after their homes lost power.
Both said they were relieved that the storm was not stronger. "It`s a blessing in my mind," Simmons said.
Igor lost strength and was downgraded from a Category 2 hurricane before dawn on Sunday, raising optimism that Bermuda would be spared major damage.
"We prayed that the storm would be downgraded, and it looks like our prayers have been answered," said Fred Swan, a 52-year-old teacher.
As the hurricane bore down, most islanders hunkered down in their homes and listened to the howling winds and cracking thunder outside.