Big waves pound Bermuda as Hurricane Igor nears

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 slightly overnight and was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (145 kph). Tropical storm-force winds were forecast to start battering the Atlantic island overnight.

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 (4 to 5 meters) began roaring onto Bermuda’s beaches Saturday afternoon, smashing into breakwaters and splashing some hours.

Earl Sunday, Igor was about 275 miles (440 kilometers) south of Bermuda, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Hurricane-force winds extended about 90 miles (150 kilometers) 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 (15 to 23 centimeters) 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.