Felix Strengthens, Threatens Bermuda; Flossie Blamed for Death in Arizona
MIAMI (AP) _ Felix, the most powerful hurricane to form in the Atlantic in two years, grew more intense Saturday and aimed for Bermuda, where forecasters warned it could cause serious damage Sunday night.
In the Pacific, Hurricane Flossie spawned storms that raked the Southwest with hail, rain and 76 mph winds, knocking out electricity around Tucson, Ariz., Friday evening and causing flash floods that killed a motorist. It was downgraded to a tropical storm Saturday as it moved farther out to sea.
Tropical Storm Gabrielle, meanwhile, dissipated quickly after striking Mexico’s Gulf Coast, and was downgraded to a depression Saturday.
In the Atlantic, Hurricane Felix’s top winds grew to 125 mph, and its eye wound even tighter and more compact _ a sign of further strengthening, said Miles Lawrence, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
At 1 p.m. EDT, the hurricane was about 580 miles south-southeast of Bermuda, on a track to pass near the island about noon Monday. Bermuda could see ocean swells and tropical storm-force winds by late Sunday night, Lawrence said.
Gavin Shorto, the British colony’s information officer, said a hurricane watch was in effect, and residents were securing their boats and buying supplies. Also, a Tuesday referendum on whether to declare independence from Britain may be postponed, Shorto said.
The storm’s low pressure _ 27.52 inches _ and high wind speed rated it a Category 3 storm on the Hurricane Center’s Saffir-Simpson scale, which gauges a storm’s disaster potential.
``You start talking about death and destruction with a Category 3 storm,″ Lawrence said. ``It’s strong enough to do major structural damage to buildings, and the winds can put people in danger.″
The last Atlantic storm to attain Category 3 status was Hurricane Emily, which brushed North Carolina’s outer banks in September 1993.
Lawrence said conditions are favorable for Felix to strengthen to Category 4 status. The last such Atlantic storm was Hurricane Andrew, which ravaged South Florida and southern Louisiana with 150 mph winds in August 1992, causing about $25 billion in damage.
Power was restored for most residents of Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, but flash flood warnings remained in effect for the southeastern corner of the state. Margaret Krieski, 43, was killed Friday as she tried to drive through floodwater and was swept into a shallow canal in Tucson.
``We did everything we could,″ said Matthew Dukette, who dived into at least 4 feet of rushing water to try to pull her from her car. ``But I wish we could have done more.″
The driver of a second car swept into the same canal was helped to safety.