Hurricane Gonzalo on track for Bermuda after barrelling through Caribbean

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Hurricane Gonzalo was expected to become a major hurricane Tuesday and poses a threat to Bermuda as it strengthens over the open Atlantic north of Puerto Rico, forecasters said.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Gonzalo’s top sustained winds rose early Tuesday to nearly 110 mph (175 kph) as it moved away from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Still intensifying, Gonzalo was centred about 140 miles (225 kilometres) north of San Juan, Puerto Rico and was headed to the northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

Gonzalo is on a track toward Bermuda, with the storm expected to take a north-northwest turn late Wednesday and move over open waters through Friday.

“Folks in Bermuda are going to need to start paying attention to this thing,” Dennis Feltgen, a National Hurricane Center meteorologist, said by phone.

Forecasters might begin issuing storm watches Wednesday if Gonzalo is expected to impact Bermuda, he said.

A tropical storm warning has been discontinued for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A hurricane warning for the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla has been changed to a tropical storm warning.

Gonzalo passed just northeast of the British Virgin Islands overnight but did not cause any damage or flooding, Lorenzo Thomas, with the island’s Department of Disaster Management, said by phone. Officials in the tiny territory of roughly 30,000 people had earlier shut airports, school and government offices ahead of the storm.

Yvonne Remington, owner of the Hummingbird House bed and breakfast in Tortola, said she secured her outdoor tables and chairs but was perplexed about the lack of heavy rains and winds.

“I just turned on the weather channel to see where it went,” she said in a phone interview early Tuesday. “We’ve had a bit of rain, and that’s all.”

Officials in the neighbouring three-island territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands had shut seaports and the international airport on St. Thomas, but announced that schools and government offices would open on Tuesday.

Gonzalo pummeled Antigua on Monday as a tropical storm, tearing off roofs, uprooting trees and knocking out power, with crews working overnight with flashlights to help restore power.

Over the weekend, Tropical Storm Fay knocked out power to thousands in Bermuda before moving out over open ocean.