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Hurricane Florence churns past Bermuda; thousands left without power

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September 11th, 2006

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) – Hurricane Florence blew out windows, peeled away the roofs of at least three houses and knocked out power to thousands in Bermuda on Monday before churning past the wealthy British island chain and heading out over open ocean.

As the whirling eye of the storm travelled away from the archipelago of tiny islands, the lashing winds and sea water surge that threatened the islands were reducing in intensity by late afternoon. Authorities said there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

But many tourists remained hunkered down inside resort hotels and officials urged all islanders to stay at home until the second hurricane of the Atlantic season no longer posed a danger. Tropical-storm-force winds and strong bands of rain were expected to affect the British territory until Monday evening, local forecasters said.

“The storm has passed its closest point of approach. It looks like the worst is over,” said Kimberly Zuill, a meteorologist with the Bermuda Weather Service.

At least 23,000 homes and businesses were without power Monday, according to Bermuda’s electric company.

Some people were unfazed by the latest storm to hit the island chain, which enforces strict building codes to withstand rough weather.

“Everything is normal,” said Rowena Smith, an employee at The Reefs, a cliffside resort on the vulnerable south shore. About 50 guests checked out early Saturday, but more than 80 stayed to ride out the storm at the hotel.

“They’re in high spirits. We have a lot of repeaters in house, and they’re having fun,” Smith said.

Strong winds, rains and white-capped waves have pounded the British territory since Sunday, when tropical-storm-force winds first began. Battering waves were expected along Bermuda’s coastline until evening, the hurricane centre said.

Forecasters said Florence was expected to weaken as wind shear increases and ocean temperatures cool. The storm was to pass close to or over Newfoundland later in the week before swerving into the North Atlantic.

“We are expecting it to begin accelerating north and northeast over the North Atlantic shipping lanes and there should be some impact to the Canadian Maritimes,” said Hugh Cobb, a meteorologist with the hurricane centre.

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