HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Bermuda was bracing on Sunday for Hurricane Joaquin, which was tracking northward toward the wealthy financial haven and tourist destination after plowing through the Bahamas.
Residents of the mid-Atlantic British dependency secured patio furniture and stocked up on gas as the Category 3 hurricane’s outer bands buffeted Bermuda with gusty winds and scattered rain. All flights to L.F. Wade International Airport were cancelled and ferry service was closed due to rough seas. Emergency service agencies were placed on alert.
After roaring across parts of the Bahamas as a major Category 4 storm, Joaquin weakened as it headed north. By late Sunday morning, forecasters said it was a powerful Category 3 storm with winds near 115 mph (185 kph) that would bring hurricane conditions and life-threatening storm surge to Bermuda by the afternoon when Joaquin’s center is expected to pass near the island.
As the hurricane moves toward Bermuda, kicked up by the storm will continue to affect the Bahamas and the eastern coast of the U.S. about 600 miles (965 kilometers) away.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that elevated water levels and big waves will affect the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, “causing significant beach and dune erosion with moderate coastal flooding likely.”
Joaquin lashed the lightly populated southeastern Bahamas for two days, damaging hundreds of homes and causing severe flooding on several small islands in the sprawling archipelago off Florida’s east coast. The government said it was still working to calculate the extent of the damage to infrastructure and private property.
Aircraft returned to the southeastern Bahamas early Sunday to resume searching for a U.S. cargo ship with 33 people on board. The craft lost power and communications when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin and has not been heard from since.
U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force planes and helicopters were looking for the ship across a broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean around Crooked Island, which it was passing when it was battered by fierce winds and waves by what was then a Category 4 hurricane.
An elderly man died on Long Island during the hurricane but it has not yet been determined if the storm caused his death, said Capt. Stephen Russell, the director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency. The Bahamas was in cleanup mode Sunday and has discontinued all storm watches and warnings for its islands and cays.
By late Sunday morning, Joaquin’s center was located some 210 miles (340 kilometers) southwest of Bermuda, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 70 miles (110 kilometers). It is tracking northeast at 21 mph (33 kph).