5th September 2003, Hurricane Fabian made a direct hit on Bermuda as a Major Hurricane. Fabian tracked across the Tropical Atlantic over the previous week, before turning toward the island.
When the hurricane reached Bermuda, it brought approximately 16 hours of tropical storm conditions, with winds above hurricane force for about half of that time. The eastern eyewall of the hurricane (the region of strongest winds and heaviest precipitation) passed over the island between 5 and 7pm with peak winds between 100 and 105 kts with peak gusts near 130 kts, mostly on south-facing hilltops. These severe winds resulted in widespread roof, structural, and vegetation damage across the island.
Wind is often the first hazard that comes to mind when ‘hurricane’ is mentioned. However, hazards associated with water are historically more dangerous and destructive where they occur. That was again the case in Bermuda as large battering waves atop a significant storm surge resulted in significant and widespread coastal flooding and erosion. Strong wind and low pressure associated with Fabian resulted in an increase in water level an estimated 8 ft above normal tide levels. It was the tempestuous sea that tragically claimed four Bermudian lives during the Hurricane. The sea compromised key infrastructural components, such as The Causeway, the airport, and sections of South Shore Road.
We are once again near the peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, and the current outlook includes Hurricane Florence in the distance Central Atlantic as a system to monitor for possible impacts this weekend. Bermuda’s national hurricane preparation plan has matured respectably since Fabian’s impact and the impacts from many subsequent tropical storms and hurricanes over the past 15 years. Between the Bermuda Weather Service, the Emergency Measures Organisation, and social media, information about incipient hurricanes and their associated disruption to services can spread through the island rapidly.
This same 15 years of experience with hurricanes is also reflected on the personal level, and many Bermudians consider themselves well-versed in hurricane preparedness. All the same, remembering Fabian is a good reminder to plan and prepare well in advance of the next serious hurricane to avoid the rush for supplies and to minimise personal impacts should a hurricane threaten.
Follow the latest official forecast for Bermuda from the Bermuda Weather Service who are monitoring the progress of Hurricane Florence closely for any potential impacts.