HAMILTON Hurricane Igor churned across the Atlantic Ocean toward Bermuda on Saturday packing powerful winds and heavy rains as island residents stocked up on supplies and worked to secure their homes.
The Category 2 storm was located about 360 miles south of the tiny British overseas territory at 5 p.m.. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Igor was on a path to reach Bermuda late on Sunday, but warned tropical storm weather would hit the island later on Saturday.
"Igor is expected to remain a dangerous hurricane as it approaches Bermuda," the Miami-based hurricane center said.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Bermuda, a wealthy hub for the global insurance industry and one of the world's most isolated yet densely populated islands.
The Bermuda Weather Service forecast that Igor's center would pass over or near the island, and it would cause pounding waves and heavy rainfall before making what it called a "direct hit" late on Sunday or early on Monday.
Most stores and restaurants in the capital of Hamilton were boarded up and many residents were buying up supplies like gas, batteries, food and candles.
"The shutters are up, I've put tape across the windows and I've got a lot of buckets ready," said Eddie DeSilva, a 64-year-old cleaner.
Bermuda's buildings are some of the best-constructed in the world, weather forecasters and analysts say, which could help mitigate any storm damage.
Igor had sustained winds of 100 mph, with hurricane-force winds extending out for 90 miles, the hurricane center said.
The Bermuda government has warned residents to prepare for a possible impact similar to the one they experienced in the 2003 Hurricane Fabian, which killed four people and caused millions of dollars of damage.
Authorities closed the island's international airport and were monitoring wind gusts to determine whether to a close off a causeway linking it to the rest of Bermuda.
The National Hurricane Center said it could not rule out Igor regaining Category 3 status before it reaches Bermuda, but that "appears less likely than previously thought." Igor was a powerful Category 4 storm earlier in the week.
Joe Bastardi, a hurricane expert with the private U.S. forecaster AccuWeather, said Bermuda should be prepared for a "several-day siege of damaging winds and waves."
The hurricane center predicted total rainfall accumulations of five to eight inches over Bermuda. It said the storm could produce significant coastal flooding and large, destructive waves, particularly along the southern coast.
East of Igor, Tropical Storm Julia posed no threat to land and its 50 mph/ winds were expected to weaken over the next two days.
In Mexico, the remnants of Hurricane Karl, now a tropical depression, continued to dissipate over the mountains of southern Mexico after killing two people in a mudslide.
A small child also drowned in her flooded home in southern Tabasco state during the storm, local authorities said.
Karl appeared to have spared Mexican oil operations from major damage after sweeping through the Bay of Campeche, where Mexico produces more than two-thirds of its 2.55 million barrels per day of crude output.
(Additional reporting by Luis Manuel Lopez in Villahermosa, Mexico; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Chris Wilson)