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Power out, trees fall as hurricane crosses Bermuda

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    This image provided by NASA shows Hurricane Gonzalo taken from the International Space Station by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst as it moves toward Bermuda on Thursday
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HAMILTON, Bermuda >> Hurricane Gonzalo crushed trees, flattened power lines and damaged Bermuda’s main hospital during an hours-long battering — the second time the tiny British territory has been slammed by a powerful storm in less than a week.

The storm’s center crossed over Bermuda during Friday night and its winds and heavy surf whipped at the island early Saturday before Gonzalo quickly moved northward over the Atlantic on a track that could take it just off the shore of Newfoundland in Canada.

Bermuda Gov. George Fergusson tweeted that police have reported no deaths or serious injuries and that damage has been extensive but not catastrophic

Forecasters warned of the danger of a storm surge of 10 feet that could cause widespread flooding, but officials had not yet made a full assessment of damage.

Nearly all of the 36,000 homes connected to Bermuda’s sole power provider were believed to be without electricity after the hurricane roared through, just days after Tropical Storm Fay damaged homes and also knocked down trees and power lines.

“To be struck twice by two different cyclones is unusual, to say the least,” said Max Mayfield, a former director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva said almost all roads in Bermuda were impassible as crews began to clear debris and fallen trees and power lines. He urged people to stay at home and said on the island’s Emergency Broadcast Station that motorists would be turned back.

“Unless it’s a life or death emergency — checking on your boat is not an emergency — we won’t let you pass,” he said.

Gonzalo approached Bermuda as a Category 3 storm then weakened to Category 2 strength just before coming ashore with sustained winds of 110 mph.

Part of the roof at Bermuda’s main hospital was damaged and there was water damage in the new intensive care unit, police spokesman Dwayne Caines reported.

Flooding was the main concern on Bermuda, which has one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world and is known for strict building codes meant to ensure homes can withstand sustained winds of at least 110 mph.

“Water damage, especially from the wave action, will take the biggest toll,” Mayfield said, noting that seas had risen between 30 and 40 feet.

The last major hurricane to strike Bermuda was Fabian in September 2003. That Category 3 storm killed four people and caused more than $100 million in damage as it tore off roofs, flooded golf courses and damaged the causeway linking the airport to most of Bermuda, which is about 850 miles off the U.S. East Coast.

Marlie Powell, the owner of Kingston House Bed & Breakfast, said in a phone interview that Gonzalo hit as she was still recovering from Tropical Storm Fay, which toppled two large trees on her property.

“We only had very few days to clean and get the trees out of our house,” she said. “There’s a lot of loose debris around the island already, which is not good.”

A 436-foot frigate of Britain’s Royal Navy with a crew of some 180 sailors was expected to arrive Sunday in Bermuda to help with post-storm recovery efforts.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Gonzalo weakened as it moved away from Bermuda on a track that would take it past Newfoundland and then across the Atlantic to Britain and Ireland. A tropical storm watch was issued for parts of southeastern Newfoundland.

Early Saturday, Gonzalo was located 270 miles north-northeast of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph as it traveled north-northeast at 22 mph.

Gonzalo swept by the eastern Caribbean earlier this week, claiming one life in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten. The hurricane center said the storm was generating large swells that could cause dangerous surf on portions of the U.S. southeast coast and those conditions would spread northward along the East Coast during Saturday.

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Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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