Bermuda readies itself for Florence

The island's only airport was closing.
HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) -- Residents of Bermuda installed storm shutters and hauled their yachts onto beaches in preparation for Tropical Storm Florence, which intensified Saturday and was expected to become a hurricane as it approaches the North Atlantic island.
Florence, which could become a hurricane as it moves over the open Atlantic, was expected to reach the tiny British territory Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. But it was too early to tell whether it will make a direct hit.
"What's important is there's a hurricane that's moving very near and possibly over Bermuda, so those people need to be making arrangements to protect life and property," said Jamie Rhome, a hurricane specialist at the center.
Bermuda issued a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning, and the government urged its 65,000 residents to take precautions.
"The public is encouraged to stock up on normal hurricane supplies and to secure their homes, lawn furniture and any other loose items which could be affected by high winds," said Derrick Burgess, minister of public safety.
In boatyards and marinas in Bermuda -- a wealthy island chain 640 miles east of the U.S. coast -- boat owners dragged their yachts onto beaches or secured their moorings.
At Pitts Bay marina, Bermudian Alan Hughes moved his 17-foot Boston Whaler away from the dock wall and tied it down.
"We are obviously concerned and cautious. It will be a tidal issue, with up to 5- or 6-foot tidal swells," he said.
At the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, the hotel distributed a disaster plan -- which included provisions for evacuation -- and told guests that patio furniture would be removed from their rooms.
Roy Riggio, a 72-year-old volunteer counselor with Medicare from New Canaan, Conn., said he and his wife, Barbara, arrived in Bermuda on Friday.
As other guests at the Fairmont were leaving, Riggio said he didn't believe the hurricane would deter him and his wife, and he wanted a "window seat" at the hotel's restaurant tonight to watch the storm.
"If not, I'm going to take pictures from my room -- I have a room up at the top of the hotel -- and I want to get some photos. I'm not a glutton for punishment, but it's exciting," he said.
Airport closing
The island's only airport, Bermuda International Airport, was to close at 9 p.m. EDT and was not expected to reopen until late Tuesday at the earliest, said General Manager Aaron Adderley. Flights from New York and Miami scheduled to arrive late Saturday were canceled.
Adderley said staff members were securing the airport and terminal building, boarding them up and laying sand bags because the site is located next to the ocean.
The storm was expected to veer away from the U.S. coast as it turns north toward Bermuda, but forecasters said its large size could also create high surf and rip currents along parts of the eastern U.S. coast.
Large ocean swells were affecting Bermuda and the northern coasts of the Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the hurricane center said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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