Bermuda residents rushed for safety on Thursday as Hurricane Gonzalo made its way to them as a major Category 4 storm, packing winds of up to 140 miles per hour. The small British territory issued a hurricane watch for Gonzalo, which is expected to pass hazardously close to the island on Friday, according to The Weather Channel.
Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, said it was too early to indicate whether Gonzalo would directly hit Bermuda Friday, but warned residents to be prepared for severe weather and take precaution.
“The eye of the hurricane does not have to go over Bermuda for them not to experience severe conditions,” he said in a phone interview with ABC News on Wednesday.
As the seventh named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, Gonzalo formed as a tropical storm early Sunday afternoon and was upgraded to the season’s sixth hurricane late Monday evening. Sustaining winds of 140 mph by early Thursday, it is the most powerful Atlantic hurricane since Ophelia in 2011.
Gonzalo was centered about 540 miles south-southwest of Bermuda by early Thursday, and was moving north at 9 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
News of Gonzalo comes as Bermuda locals are still coping with the damage caused by Sunday’s Tropical Storm Fay. Over 1,000 homes remained without power while homeowners worked to repair destructed roofs. In order to help with cleanup efforts, government officials called out around 200 Bermuda Regiment soldiers to help assist an estimated 70,000 people on the island.
“I’m still without power, and soon everyone else will be, too,” explained Max Atherden, a resident in Riddell’s Bay where people haven’t had power since Sunday.
Earlier in the week, Gonzalo pushed through the eastern Caribbean, causing devastation and taking at least one life in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten, while in French St. Martin and St. Barts, two people were reported missing. Strong ocean waters continued to affect other sections in the Caribbean, like parts of the Virgin Islands, the northern coasts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as parts of the Bahamas.
As it brushes by Bermuda, Gonzalo is expected to bring down robust, gusty winds, heavy rains reaching six inches, and flooding.