HAMILTON, Bermuda — Big waves are pounding Bermuda's beaches while islanders rush to board up windows, fill sandbags and stock up on water, food and other supplies before Hurricane Igor's expected arrival late Sunday.
In Mexico, people are cleaning up from flooding and wind damage caused by the now dissipated Hurricane Karl. Officials said Saturday that at least seven people were killed after the storm came ashore the previous day.
Igor weakened overnight and was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, and had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph at 5 a.m. EDT Sunday. The hurricane was starting to bring strong winds and rain to the Atlantic island, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
With the storm expected to pass over or very close to Bermuda late Sunday or early Monday, officials warned that its pounding rains and driving winds could be deadly.
“This storm will be a long and punishing one,” Public Safety Minister David Burch said. “The potential for injury and physical damage is great.”
High surf kicked up by the storm already swept two people out to sea in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, far to the south.
Waves of 12 to 15 feet began roaring onto Bermuda's beaches Saturday afternoon, smashing into breakwaters and splashing some hours.
“It's absolutely spectacular, but it's probably going to be absolutely horrifying come the next couple of days,” Peter Mills, 44, said while watching with his wife and two children as waves foamed in at John Smith's Bay Park.
Igor was about 190 miles south of Bermuda, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Hurricane-force winds extended about 90 miles from the storm's center, and it was headed north-northwest and expected to curve toward the British Atlantic territory during the night.
Forecasters said Igor could drop 6 to 9 inches of rain and cause significant coastal flooding.
Bermudians hurried to buy supplies, said Mark Stearns, vice president of Masters Ltd., a home and garden store in the capital of Hamilton.
“We've sold out of generators, tarpaulins, buckets, rope, screws, bottled water, coolers, even trash cans and plastic sheeting,” he said. “Anything people can use to secure their homes.”
Hotel cancellations were reported across Bermuda, popular with tourists for its pink sand beaches and with businesspeople as an offshore financial haven.
Sophie Dier, a spokeswoman for Elbow Beach hotel, said it was almost fully booked for the weekend until a business group and a wedding party canceled. That meant about 90 percent of the rooms would be empty, she said.
L.F. Wade International Airport shut down Saturday afternoon and likely would not reopen until Monday, the government said.
The last plane to leave was a British Airways flight to for London, which departed three hours earlier than usual.
Aboard was Jane Royden, 47, and her husband, both from Birmingham, England.
“We are quite relieved to be leaving and concerned for the safety of the island and everyone here,” said Royden, who cut her two-week vacation short by a week.
Officials said schools would be closed Monday and Tuesday, and a local newspaper canceled its Monday edition.
“This decision has not been taken lightly,” editor Bill Zuill wrote in an article published Saturday. “It will be the first time in living memory that The Royal Gazette has missed an edition.”
Traveller's Boat Works marina was running out of space for all the vessels whose owners wanted them out of the water, and arranged to turn a nearby church parking lot into a makeshift boat yard.
“They pushed the panic button basically between Thursday night and yesterday,” marina operator Kristy Roberts said Saturday. “I had maybe 20 boats to mess with, now I'm up to possibly 40 ... and I think it's going to go well over that.”
Hurricane Fabian killed four people when it hit Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane in 2003.
In Mexico, the remnants of Hurricane Karl soaked south-central portions of the country, leaving dozens of people stranded by flooding.
Officials listed seven fatalities Saturday night. A 61-year-old woman and a 2-year-old girl died when a landslide buried a house in the town of Nexticapan in Puebla state. In Veracruz state, a woman and two young children were swept away by a rushing river in Cotaxtla and two women were found dead in Felipe Carrillo.
Mexico's navy helicopters rescued about 40 families trapped on a hill surrounded by floodwaters in the town of San Pancho, north of Veracruz city, state Civil Protection Secretary Silvia Dominguez said.
In Cotaxtla, a town of about 5,000 residents, a river overflowed its banks and flooded homes up to their rooftops. Homes, restaurants and shops along Cotaxtla's main street were choked with mud, water and tree branches.
“There are no words for this,” Mayor Cirilo Pena said. “It's something we didn't expect. It's the first time this river has risen so far.”
Tropical Storm Julia, far out in the Atlantic, was weakening and not expected to threaten land.
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