SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hurricane Paulette knocked down trees and power lines across Bermuda on Monday as it made a rare landfall in the wealthy British territory and strengthened into a Category 2 storm while still over the island.
Government officials said they would not know the full extent of the damage until Tuesday given it will be dark by the time weather conditions improve. Fewer than 10 hurricanes have made direct landfall on the tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic since the National Hurricane Center began tracking such disasters in the 1850s.
“We’ve managed to make it through a very serious hurricane,” said National Security Minister Renee Ming.
Paulette was centered 160 miles north-northeast of Bermuda late Monday afternoon and was heading north-northeast toward open water at 15 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the center.
Ming had urged people to stay indoors and reminded the more than 70,000 people who live on the island to protect themselves given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bobbi Singh, who has lived in Bermuda for eight years, told The Associated Press that while she has been through a few hurricanes, every storm brings concerns.
“The biggest challenge was preparing in the midst of COVID-19,” she said. “It gave us more the think about when heading out to get supplies in crowded places.”
Bermuda is a wealthy financial haven featuring mostly stone and concrete construction required to withstand winds of a strong Category 2 storm.
Faith Bridges, the owner of Aunt Nea’s Inn, a hotel along the island’s northern tip, told The Associated Press by phone that she had finalized all preparations by Sunday and given her guests flashlights, warning them the power would go out. But she was not worried.
“We obviously have to prepare, but we’re built for it,” she said.
Ming said she expects the international airport will reopen by Tuesday afternoon as officials warned people to stay off the roads after the hurricane given the possibility of downed power lines.
The center said in its forecast discussion that Paulette would become a major hurricane by Tuesday after it moves away from Bermuda.