The small island nation of Bermuda—sitting in the Atlantic about 650 miles east of North Carolina—is in grave danger from category four Hurricane Gonazlo as the intense storm approaches. Bermuda could experience winds of up to 120 MPH if the storm tracks close enough.

Forecast Path

Gonzalo is currently a category four on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, packing winds of 130 MPH. Intense hurricanes like this tend to vary in intensity as they undergo eyewall replacement cycles (one eye shrinks and disappears as another takes its place), so Gonzalo will likely tick up and down in strength over the next day or so.

The National Hurricane Center expects Gonzalo to weaken somewhat to a strong category three hurricane with 120 MPH winds when it makes its closest approach to Bermuda. The agency's latest forecast shows Gonzalo's eye passing a few dozen miles west of Bermuda on Friday, which places the island in a very bad location. The right-front quadrant of a storm is the most intense, with the highest winds and worst storm surge.

The cone of uncertainty is so small that Bermuda will likely feel the Gonzalo's impacts regardless of the hurricane's ultimate path. Here's a zoomed-in view of the cone and 11:00 AM forecast path in relation to the island:

A more westerly track will spare Bermuda of the worst winds and surge, while a more easterly track could spell disaster. It's important to keep in mind that the forecast path and cone of uncertainty pertains to the eye of the storm—hurricane and tropical storm force winds extend well away from the center. Gonzalo's tropical storm force wind field extends 115 miles from the center, while hurricane force winds extend 35 miles away from the center.

One saving grace could be the relatively compact nature of the hurricane force winds. If Gonzalo stays far enough west, the island may only experience tropical storm force winds.

Bermuda's Background

Bermuda is home to more than 60,000 people and plays host to tens of thousands of tourists every year. The island's climate is warm most of the year—80s during the summer and 60s/70s in the winter—but it's far enough north and close enough to North America that temperatures can plunge into the 50s and even 40s for lows when powerful cold fronts move through.

The island is tiny—smaller than most counties in the United States. Bermuda measures roughly fifteen miles in length and about two-and-a-half miles in width at its widest point. This doesn't afford many locations for residents to evacuate from high winds and storm surge.

Hurricane Fabian

The strongest hurricane in recent years to strike Bermuda was Hurricane Fabian back in 2003. The storm made a direct hit on the island with winds of 120 MPH and gusts in excess of 150 MPH.

Jim Edds made the above video documenting Hurricane Fabian on the island—it's about 26 minutes long and it's incredibly well produced. The hurricane caused more than $300 million in damages to the island as a result of the storm's 120 MPH winds and 11-foot storm surge.

In the worst case scenario, Bermuda could face a similar situation to what it went through with Fabian. It's worth close monitoring over the next couple of days.

The Bermuda Weather Service does an excellent job providing forecasts for the island; the agency also runs a weather radar at the airport that is immensely useful when hurricanes approach the area.

The next forecast from the National Hurricane Center will come out at 5:00 PM Eastern/Atlantic.

[Images: NASA, author, author, Google Earth | Video: Jim Edds/YouTube]

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