Hurricane Gonzalo makes for the first back-to-back tropical cyclone strike to Bermuda since the mid 1850s. The occurrence of two or more strikes in single location during any season is unusual outside of western Pacific’s southeast China, northern Philippines, Guam, or Japan. It is a rare occurrence for two storms to hit within one week’s time, and Bermuda is riddling from the effects of Tropical Story Fay.
Taking Bermudians off guard, Fay hit October 12, 2014 uprooting trees and taking out power lines leaving 27,000 people in the dark. Fay exerted 120 mph wind gusts that damaged L.F. Wade International Airport’s terminal roof. Bermuda, approximately 665 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, is right in the path of Hurricane Gonzalo.
Hurricane Gonzalo is projected to strike within the same week as Fay, subjecting Bermuda to its wrath for a forecasted five days. Gonzalo’s impact is expected to be harsher than Fay’s hit.
In September 1981, tropical cyclones, Emily and Floyd, tracked near Bermuda. Emily, prior to evolving into a hurricane, approached northwest Bermuda September 1st. Hurricane Floyd passed to the south less than seven days later. Neither storm produced significant damage. This cannot be said of Bermuda’s current tropical cyclones.
Prior to 2014, two or more strikes within the same season or week had not tracked as close to Bermuda since 1987. Since the mid 1850s, 10 hurricane seasons in the Atlantic featured multiple hurricanes or tropical storms within 75 miles of Bermuda. However, Fay and Gonzalo would break the record as the back-to-back, closest-in-time tropical cyclones to track inside 75 miles of Bermuda.
Bermuda is experiencing the repeated occurrence of back-to-back tropical cyclones tracking inside 75 miles, having been hit twice back in the mid-1850s. Best track database research at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) discovered their paths nearest Hamilton, Bermuda. Given the time of their impact, very little data is available on the category of the storm and the devastation left behind. Even Bermuda’s historical database found online failed to record the back-to-back storms although it has listed hurricanes dating back to the early 1800s.
According to Dennis Feltgen, a National Hurricane Center spokesman, 11 major hurricanes have tracked within 60 nautical miles of the British Independent Overseas Territory since 1851. He confirms that nine of them were Category 3 and the others were Category 4.
Atlantic tropical cyclones tracking north then northeast – steered by western Bermuda, Azores Islands, and the U.S.’s east coast jet stream –into open waters are far more common. Hurricane Gonzalo, the Atlantic’s strongest hurricane in three years, was elevated to Category 4 on Wednesday meaning its wind speed has reached at least 111 mph. Bermuda’s last major hurricane was Fabian back in 2003.
Bermuda occupies 21 square miles and is a small target for tropical cyclones. Global Forecasting Services for The Weather Company’s vice president, Dr. Peter Neilley was in Bermuda when Fay struck and observed the piles of debris left for residents to clear from their properties. He says the debris will likely be hazardous if Gonzalo strikes.
Bermuda has been put on hurricane watch. Moving northwest at 12 mph as of 2pm EST October 15th, Gonzalo is expected to hit late Friday night and into Saturday. According to Bermuda newspaper, Royal Gazette, local hardware stores selling out of generators and Caribbean utility companies being placed on standby to assist with the aftermath of the hurricane.
Much has changed since the double impact of tropical storms 16 decades ago. They are better equipped to handle the back-to-back tropical cyclones than in the mid-1850s hurricane-strikes on Bermuda.
By Charice Long