Bermudian tells of calm before storm

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A Bermudian braced for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma on the United States described an ominous calm in southern Florida yesterday as the colossal storm bore down on the region.

Peter Madeiros, of Punta Gorda, a small town on Florida’s Gulf coast, said: “I’ve got my Bermuda shutters up, every window secure — I am buttoned up about as well as I can get.”

Hurricane veteran Mr Madeiros recalled Hurricane Charley, which swept ashore at Punta Gorda 13 years ago as a Category 4 hurricane and caused extensive damage.

He said: “A lot of people moved. There was an exodus, and new people moved in, a bunch of northerners. They don’t worry about hurricanes.”

Charley ripped the roof off the house Mr Madeiros has owned there for the last 22 years.

With Irma looming as an even stronger hurricane, this weekend is set to put Mr Madeiros’s sturdier metal replacement roof to the test.

The strongest hurricane ever recorded from the Atlantic outside of the Caribbean, Irma is forecast to swerve north for Florida later today after hitting the southern Bahamas and Cuba’s north coast.

Evacuations have choked highways and strained the state’s gasoline supplies, but Mr Madeiros was prepared to wait out the storm in his brick home.

He said: “We’re right by a canal, so I’m a little concerned about storm surge.”

But a friend’s nearby house, raised on 16ft stilts, is on standby as a hurricane refuge.

Conditions yesterday were typical for a summer afternoon in Punta Gorda — clouds, light rain and a little breeze.

But stronger winds were expected to start this afternoon and escalate.

Mr Madeiros said: “The worst will be at 2am on Sunday. They’re calling for 150 to 180mph.”

Irma’s death toll in the Caribbean reached 23 by 6pm yesterday.

Fuelled by exceptionally warm waters, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 155mph.

For Guilden Gilbert Jr, a Bermudian who lives in the Bahamas, conditions outside Nassau remained grey, with some rain, but no serious wind.

The capital is well north of Irma’s path — although Mr Gilbert and his family remained “battened down”.

Mr Gilbert said: “The folks prepared very well in Nassau.”

He added that last year’s hit from Hurricane Matthew, a Category 5 hurricane had been a “valuable lesson”.

Mr Gilbert said: “Nassau had not had a direct hit from a major hurricane since the 1960s. Many took Matthew lightly because of that.”

Early tracking showed a possible hit on Nassau and preparation got under way early.

The majority of residents on the more exposed southernmost islands complied with evacuation orders.

Mr Gilbert said the Government “deserves credit for the swift and efficient manner in this operation”.

Many others in the Caribbean fared far worse — and, with some forecasts suggesting Irma might power back up to a Category 5, all eyes were on Florida for the weekend.

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Published Sep 9, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 9, 2017 at 12:31 am)

Bermudian tells of calm before storm

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