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Tropical storm churns northward

Posted: September 9, 2012 11:26 a.m.
Updated: September 9, 2012 11:26 a.m.

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Tropical Storm Leslie's outer bands buffeted Bermuda with gusty winds and steady rain Sunday as its center edged past the wary British enclave on a path that could take it to Canada's Newfoundland.

The government announced that the L.F. Wade International Airport would be closed until at least midafternoon due to tropical storm winds. Major airlines already had canceled flights to the British Atlantic territory of about 65,000 inhabitants.

With satellite images showing the large tropical storm's outer bands dwarfing the tiny territory, all bus and sea ferry services were halted and schools were ordered closed to students on Monday, though teachers and principals were still expected to report to their jobs. Many roads were littered with tree branches and other debris. The Bermuda Electric Light Company said there have been five scattered power outages impacting hundreds of customers since the storm began impacting the grouping of islands.

But officials were breathing a sigh of relief since earlier in the week Leslie had been forecast to be a Category 2 hurricane as it passed Bermuda, possibly as a direct strike.

Most residents of Bermuda, a financial haven and tourist destination about 600 miles (965 kilometers) off the U.S. East Coast, were taking the fast-moving outer bands of the passing storm in stride. The territory has tough building codes and its people are used to strong storms.

"It's an excuse for a lazy day at home," said Natasha Hector, a resident of Bermuda's Southhampton parish who is originally from Oxfordshire, England.

Visiting London resident Philippa Raven said she was enjoying watching the storm from her friends' hilltop home.

"It's a good view and it's quite nice just watching it outside when you are cozy inside," said Raven, who arrived in Bermuda on Thursday.

James Dodgson, a forecaster for the Bermuda Weather Service, cautioned that even with the storm's center staying well offshore, there would be a chance of some flooding. He said a probable small storm surge of one or two feet (30 to 60 centimeters) could combine with high tide to cause minor flooding in low-lying areas.

Bermuda was forecast to receive between 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of rain from Leslie.

Tropical storm winds extend up to 195 miles (95 kph) from its center. By early afternoon, it was located about 140 miles (230 kilometers) east of Bermuda and was moving north at 10 mph (17 kph).

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm weakened slightly early Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph), below the hurricane threshold of 74 mph (120 kph).

Some strengthening was forecast over the next two days and U.S. forecasters said Leslie could regain hurricane strength on Monday over open ocean before a possible strike on Newfoundland and perhaps even Iceland toward the end of the week.

As Leslie moves northward, swells kicked up by the storm will affect Bermuda, the U.S. East Coast, the Canadian Maritimes, the northern Leeward Islands and the U.S. Caribbean territories for the next few days.

Far out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Michael weakened to a Category 1 storm, with maximum sustained winds of about 90 mph (150 kph), and was not considered any threat to land. For a few hours Thursday, it was the first Category 3 of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Michael was moving toward the west at 5 mph (7 kph). It was expected to take a turn to the northwest and then north-northwest Monday and Tuesday. It's forecast to weaken to a tropical storm by Tuesday.


Associated Press reporter David McFadden in Kingston, Jamaica, contributed to this report.


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