Bermuda braces for hit from 'Nicole,' a Cat 3 hurricane

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — Heavy wind and rain began battering Bermuda late tonight as the British territory braced itself for Hurricane Nicole, which became a major Category 3 storm as it tracked toward the tiny island in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm is expected to pass near or over Bermuda on Thursday morning. Nicole was located about 210 miles (335 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda late today. It had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) and was moving north-northeast at 10 mph (17 kph).

The storm could strengthen even more as it approaches Bermuda, forecasters said.

While Bermuda has sturdy infrastructure and is accustomed to storms, government officials urged people to prepare for the hurricane and remain indoors today and Thursday.

"We have a long night in front of us," Premier Michael Dunkley said. "We better be prepared for the onslaught of hurricane force winds, but if we heed the warnings, we will be in a strong position once the storm blows through."

Earlier today, authorities closed schools and government offices as shops and gas stations reported brisk business ahead of the storm, with people buying batteries, matches, alcohol and ready-cooked meals.

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