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Hurricane Gert Lashes Bermuda

September 22, 1999

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) _ With punishing waves 10 feet high, Hurricane Gert smashed the walls off seaside cottages Tuesday and washed away three miles of Bermuda’s prime beach, including the famed Pink Beach.

There were no reports of injuries, even from tourists in a house that had two rooms torn away in exclusive Tucker’s Town.

``Part of the house just fell away in the early morning. I didn’t even hear when it fell away,″ said Mike Muir of Los Angeles, who was visiting Bermuda with family and friends.

Gert’s outer edge whipped the island with gusts up to 110 mph, according to meteorologist Todd Kimberlain of the U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami. Drenching thunderstorms inundated low-lying areas, flooding some roads and blocking others with uprooted trees and boulders, said police spokeswoman Evelyn James Barnett.

Parts of Barry Road, in the east, were washed out when a wall of water crashed over a seawall, she said.

She said about 11,000 people suffered temporary power cuts as the winds downed power lines and electricity transformers.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Gert’s center was about 175 miles east-northeast of Bermuda and moving north-northeast at 20 mph. Top sustained winds slowed Tuesday from 110 mph to 105 mph and extended up to 140 miles from its center.

Storm surges of up to 5 feet were expected to diminish as the storm weakens further in the next 24 hours and is expected to turn north-northeast, the hurricane center said.

Residents reported severe damage along the south shore, which was nearest to the storm, including one of Bermuda’s oldest attractions, the Natural Arches, formed by caves and pillars that suffered structural damage from Hurricane Emily in 1987 and Hurricane Felix in 1995.

``The beaches have been devastated,″ said Jami McKenna, a manager of the Marriott Castle Harbor hotel near Pink Beach, which gets its color from finely crushed seashells. ``Our beach this morning, we had none. The water was all the way up to our restaurant, the concrete steps had been totally washed away.″

She said about three miles of prime beach was blasted away, from Castle Harbor down to John Smith’s Bay.

At the famous Pink Beach Club, a resident who would not give her name over the phone said there was ``very severe damage, most of the waterfront is damaged, cottage walls have collapsed and the beach has disappeared.″

Gert is the biggest storm to threaten Bermuda since 1987, when Hurricane Emily hit, moved offshore, and then struck again. It inflicted major damage on the British island of 62,000 people located 600 miles east of North Carolina.

On Monday, cruise ships diverted to other ports and hundreds of tourists fled before the airport closed Tuesday. An already struggling tourist industry began counting the cost of cancellations from its biggest market, the United States.

``We’ve lost business, including group bookings, particularly after the progress of the hurricane was broadcast on U.S. networks,″ said Norm Masilar, general manager of the island’s biggest hotel, the Southampton Princess.

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