Bertha whacks Bermuda with heavy rains

July 14, 2008 8:59:22 PM PDT
White-capped storm surf thundered against beaches and high winds knocked out power to thousands of Bermudians on Monday as Tropical Storm Bertha swept over the Atlantic tourist island before heading back out over open ocean. The U.S. National Hurricane Center discontinued a hurricane watch for Bermuda late Monday as the center of Bertha moved away from the British territory. It said a tropical storm watch remained in effect, however.

The storm also whipped up dangerous rip currents along the U.S. East Coast from the Carolinas through southern New England, contributing to at least one drowning Saturday along a New Jersey beach, officials said.

The streets of Bermuda's capital, Hamilton, were empty and all ferries and flights were canceled. Bertha's heavy rains flooded roads and its winds felled utility poles, leaving up to 4,000 without electricity. There were no reports of injuries.

Ron Smith, a carpenter who moved to Bermuda about a year ago from the English city of Stoke-on-Trent, described the broad storm's passage as "harrowing."

"You could see the waves just crashing down and the winds were ferocious, still are," said Smith, one of dozens who rode out the storm in The Pickled Onion pub and restaurant in Hamilton.

Retiree Barbara Richardson hunkered down in her home in the southern parish of Warwick, where electricity was knocked out for about an hour.

"The wind was howling pretty bad there for a while, but now it's calming down," Richardson said. "We've seen worse here."

Bertha was centered 120 miles (195 kilometers) north-northeast of Bermuda Monday night with sustained winds near 70 mph (110 kph), the hurricane center said. The storm was swirling north at 9 mph (15 kph), and forecasters said it could dump another 1-2 inches (2½-4 centimeters) of rain on Bermuda. It has already dumped 4.7 inches (12 centimeters)of rain on the island.

Bertha became the Atlantic season's first hurricane on July 7, but later weakened into a tropical storm. It is expected to re-strengthen into a hurricane on Tuesday, the center said.

Also Monday, Elida became the second hurricane of the Eastern Pacific region's season, scattering rains across Mexico's central coast. The storm, with winds of nearly 85 mph (140 kph), was headed away from land and was expected to gradually weaken during the next 48 hours.

Elida was centered about 490 miles (790 kilometers) south of the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, and was moving west about 10 mph (17 kph).


Associated Press Writer David McFadden in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.